Monday, July 8, 2013

There are some things you just shouldn't mess with

I am here talking about my memories of the original film of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  Because I was really annoyed by the musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for being totally untrue to the whole point of the original novel.  And then I looked it up on wikipedia, and, apparently, the musical was pretty true to the book, and it's the 1971 movie that screwed it all up -- and honestly, I don't care.  The movie had it right, as far as I'm concerned, because that's what I grew up with.  (I'd read the book, too, but, apparently, didn't remember it.)  And the musical, even if (as appears to be true) it was more true to the book, is still wrong, because it missed the whole damn point.  

Because in this musical, you've got five kids going on a chocolate factory tour.  Four of them are bratty kids, who break the rules and get what's coming to them.  The fifth kid, Charlie, is your standard cheerful optimistic poor kid -- who always has a sunny disposition and never complains about having less than everyone else.  He doesn't break the rules and he wins everything.  The end.

And what's missing is everything that was wonderful about the movie, from my point of view as a kid.  And no, I don't mean Charlie and his grandpa burping for their lives.  I mean the fact that Charlie broke the rules too, but managed to redeem himself by refusing the opportunity to destroy Wonka (by giving his competitor the secret everlasting gobstopper).  That's a message a kid wants to hear -- you can break a rule or two, but still win as long as you don't go too far.  Man, that's what you need to hear -- not that you have to be Polly Perfect all the time.

(And, after having seen Matilda, I was certain that this had been in the original Dahl story -- because Matilda is all about sometimes being a little bit naughty.)

But, no, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical goes with the easy plot, the morality play.  Bad kids get punished for their sins (and, when you think about it, those of their parents); the good little boy wins the best reward ever.  (Yeah, that's what we need to teach our kids -- if you behave well, you'll get chocolate.)

The musical itself--  well, the musical itself made me really ask why they'd ever thought making a musical out of this would be a good idea.  I mean, really, why?  They scare up one song from the original movie, "Pure Imagination," although they move it to a more spotlighted position in the show, and all that it does is point out how effin' perfect that song is compared to what was written for this adaptation.  (And I found myself wanting to hear little Veruca sing "I Want It Now!")  Douglas Hodge is stuck playing a rather undefined Wonka -- he doesn't go out and try to create anything as memorable as Gene Wilder did (or Johnny Depp, for that matter).  Instead, he tries to be a little charming and a little distant and a little weird and a little magical, and when you add it all up, he's just a guy in green trousers and a velvet tailcoat.

(The green of his trousers, by the way, was pretty much the exact green of the grass in the chocolate room.  I kept hoping they'd do something where he disappeared into the background -- like the dude playing Timon in the musical of The Lion King -- but no such creativity.)

Also, we all agreed that they should have given us all free chocolate on the way out.

There's more to report on the day -- I saw an exhibition on propaganda at the British Library, went to my own bank (so as not to get screwed on the exchange rate again), met my folks (whose flight was 2 1/2 hours late), and various other things.  (Oh.  I think I littered.  I'm feeling guilty about it.  I looked all over for a trash bin, and all I could find was one of them big ol' solar powered jobs which had smoke coming out of it -- I guess it was burning or compacting or composting or doing whatever the hell it did.  Anyway, I couldn't open it, so I did what everyone else was doing -- I left my garbage next to it and walked away.  I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to yell at me for leaving my garbage on the ground.  Seriously, man, no chocolate factory for me.)  But it's late and I have an early start tomorrow, and apparently I'm still grumpy about the play, so I'll sign off for now.

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