The Sweet Life

I’ve been on a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kick lately. I reread the 1964 novel by Roald Dahl and watched not only the Tim Burton 2005 movie of the same name (starring Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore), but also the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder and directed by Mel Stuart. I’ve seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory twice recently. Slight spoilers ahead.

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Charlie’s story is a Cinderella story—a good, but poor kid desperately wants to gain one of five golden tickets which allow the bearers to visit the world-famous chocolate factory of the reclusive Willy Wonka—the prince of the story. Charlie doesn’t stand much of a chance, since anyone in the world could find a ticket. But that’s what makes the book/movie such a delight.

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Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

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Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka

Why the obsession? Fairy tales are the ultimate comfort food for me when life is tough and I feel overwhelmed by it. (Like when two computer viruses almost crashed my computer recently.) It’s great to know that good things can happen to nice people, especially when the news is full of stories of brutality and hate—proof that life is often anything but a fairy tale.

I’ve heard men quip that women are obsessed by chocolate. How interesting that this book was written by a man and both movies adapted from it were directed by men. Seeing all of that chocolate flash across the screen is fun, but dangerous. I usually need to have some chocolate on hand to satisfy the cravings inspired by the movie. (Same with the 2000 film Chocolat, based on the novel by Joanne Harris and directed by Lasse Hallström—a film that also starred Johnny Depp and also Juliette Binoche. I highly recommend the book and the movie. I might have to revisit both soon.)

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While Dahl’s story, like others he’s written, has enough of an acerbic edge to delight twenty-first century children, Charlie’s family interactions, by contrast have a sweetness that I appreciate. But the best parts of the book and films are when the extremely bratty kids receive their just desserts at the factory. (Nanny McPhee, a 2005 film written by and starring Emma Thompson and directed by Kirk Jones, is another good film for that. It’s based on the Nurse Matilda stories by Christianna Brand.) Those moments are a catharsis for me.

Nanny McPhee

Yeah, I know. A fairy-tale like story with a happy ending won’t solve all of the world’s ills. But it can make a bad day—or a bad week—a little sweeter. If only real life was just as sweet.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory photos from yamu.lk and fanpop.com. Book cover from Goodreads. Nanny McPhee poster from mposter.com.

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36 thoughts on “The Sweet Life

  1. I loved both Charlie and the Choc Factory and Chocolat. Roald Dahl has got to be one of the best child authors of all time. I didn’t enjoy Joanna Harris’s other books. The casting for the film was first rate, as were the locations used…
    I still view chocolate eating as the ultimate comfort food.

    • I only read the one book by Harris, and I read it after seeing Chocolat. I agree that the casting was amazing. I must have seen that movie 10 or 15 times.
      Now I want some chocolate.

  2. I have to admit that I was annoyed by the newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Mostly because they seemed lazy on the Oompa Loompas and I could never understand what those high-pitched clones were singing.

    • Yes, some years ago. I’ve read most of Roald Dahl’s books. Oddly enough, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one I read as an adult, rather than as a child. I’m not sure why. One of my favorites is The BFG. Another is Matilda.

  3. I love fairy/folk tales. 🙂 Not Charlie and the Chocolate factory, but to each her own, right? Wonka is too creepy for me. Especially Gene Wilder’s Wonka *shudder* Even when I was a kid, he struck me as a literally-sugar-coated, sadistic murderer with a penchant for confectionery torture.

    • I guess I shouldn’t giggle at this: “he struck me as a literally-sugar-coated, sadistic murderer with a penchant for confectionery torture.” I know what you mean though, ReGi. 😀 But I love the fact that little Charlie and his family get to move to a chocolate factory. That was a dream of mine when I was a kid.

      • Oh, that part I like. I could so totally live in a (dairy-free) chocolate factory. My sister loved the movie and read the book and its sequel, which had to do with the Magic Elevator. I almost read that one because the elevator was so cool.

  4. Sorry to hear things have been troublesome for you lately, Linda. Hope things work out better for you soon. You’ve certainly picked a good set of stories/films to pull you out of the doldrums of life! The Wilder version of Wonka is my fave.

  5. I read Charlie as a child and loved it. I recently found a copy as an adult and found that Charlie was as sweet as ever but Wonka was a lot more harsh than I remembered. As an adult you pick up on so many different things.

    I love Nanny McPhee. Have you seen the sequel, Nanny McPhee Returns? Normally I am disappointed in movie sequels, but I found the sequel was just as good if not better than the original.

  6. I must confess, I’ve never seen the remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For me, nothing could compare. Gene Wilder yes, Johnny Depp, no…I think of the “21 Jump Street” and “Edward Scissorhands.”
    I thought of you this past weekend, Linda. I was watching a Hallmark move, “Looking for Mr. Right” and I knew you were probably watching it too. 🙂

  7. I’m missing a gene that almost everyone else seems to have, because I am not a fan of either film. I know I know, how can that be?

    Will I get back into your good graces by professing my love for chocolate? I’ll shove an old lady out of the way for a piece (not really). I could eat one of those 1 pound Hershey bars in about 5 minutes, if I had to. Because you never know when a band of armed ruffians well force you to do exactly that.

  8. I like both movies–but agree with Charles that the oompa loompas were much better in the first movie. I have a friend who has more than once had something bad happen after watching the original, so he refuses to watch it now. “No, no, bad things happen,” he says.

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