Who Mourns For Gene Wilder?


Everybody, apparently. A fairly consistent "why remake a classic?" theme has run through nearly all coverage of the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with special emphasis on the idea that Johnny Depp can't match Gene Wilder's original performance. Beyond rounding out today's movie theme and demonstrating that Generation X has finally become the same bunch of boring, rigid, back-in-my-day turds our parents were, this phenomenon has an additional point of interest.

Gene Wilder's performance in Willy Wonka is beyond my poor powers to praise, but here's something fans of the original movie never mention: Gene Wilder doesn't show up until 45 minutes into the movie. That's just about halfway through the picture—until then it's some of the most pointless and unnecessary exposition ever put on screen, along with musical numbers. Whatever else director Mel Stuart thought about his preteen audience, he apparently assumed that kids are huge Jack Albertson fans. Adults, more accustomed to having their time wasted, can pass this stuff by easily, but kids tune out before the picture even gets under way.

People have forgotten just how second-rate the making of children's movies was back in their own youth. It's an easy thing to forget today, in the era of "hand-holder" movies, when kids' stuff gets the lion's share of Hollywood attention. Who dares to speak of the dark ages of Disney's live-action kids movies, which included not only the now-doubly-unmourned Herbie franchise and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again but countless career missteps for Kurt Russell? Have your fond memories of the pictures that rated as "classics" in your youth led you to check out, say, Mary Poppins recently? If so, you'll know that it's longer than Abel Gance's Napoleon and that in a truly efficient market Dick Van Dyke would have been prosecuted for that cockney accent. Instead, he was assigned to do it again just a few years later, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, another kids' classic whose reputation is in inverse proportion to its watchability.

This last picture, scripted by Roald Dahl, brings us to another Chocolate Factory point nobody's mentioned. Contrary to all expectations, it turns out it's Roald Dahl's world, and we're just livin' in it. Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, the upcoming Fantastic Mr. Fox… Who could have guessed the old Jew-baiter would get such a second wind in death? Can a movie version of his wife-swapping gotcha tale Switch Bitch (preferably as a children's picture) be far behind?

In a reversal worthy of Marlon Brando's critical history of The Freshman (which he called "a stinker" one week and "a screamingly funny film that will be remembered for decades" the next), Gene Wilder hands Johnny Depp his ass here, then calls him "magical" here.

NEXT: Bamboozled by the Big Idea

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  1. That’s why God invented the DVD. Scene selection makes skipping over all of the boring Grandpa scenes in teh begining aseasy as the touch of a button.

  2. Gene Wilder doesn’t show up until 45 minutes into the movie because the movie is about CHARLIE and the Chocolate Factory.

  3. If the previews are any indication, I think that Johnny Depp will do a decent job with CatCF. The whole idea of Wonka is that of a creepy guy with a huge god-complex, and Gene Wilder, (although doing an excellent job) just didn’t play that up enough to really go well with the book. I remember reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and being creeped out of my seven year old mind at the idea of a guy who lives alone on what is for all intents and purposes a chocolate plantation with little orange slaves and who lets little kids be horribly disfigured in his factory because they didn’t read the warning signs. This is not a man who likes children, and I hope that the new version makes that clear.

  4. Y’know, now that I think about it, the more Willy Wonka sounds like an Objectivist hero. The list of similarities is huge: his exposure to the outside is limited to capitalistic exchanges, he does exactly what he wants, ignores the outside world, enslaves lesser beings at will, has little regard for human life, why the list goes on and on. Could the Wonka factory be considered some kind of miniature Galt’s Gulch in the middle of London?

  5. While I’ll almost certainly see the Depp WW (because I like to look at Johnny Depp), I probably will wait for Netflix.

    Because, well… he just gives off this ‘child molester’ vibe in every trailer I’ve seen.

    Wilder played WW as unstable and goofy and fun, which mostly worked for me. Depp seems a little more… catty? And sexualized? Maybe it’s just me.

  6. I think Depp is one of the greatest actors of our time, at least. He was awesome in Pirates of the Carribean.

    Him and Gary Oldman.

    Anyway…so I will see it, but like isildur, I’ll probably wait until DVD release.

  7. I bet it will suck the same way all Tim Burton movies suck.

  8. I’m not holding out much hope for this remake given that it’s directed by Burton, who apparently lost his mojo completely the day Vincent Price died. Let’s see…pointless adaptation of a comic book: check. More-pointless sequel to adaptation of comic book: check. Pointless adaptation of ’50s trading card set: check. Passable adaptation of old halloween story: check. Pointless remake of late-’60s sci-fi classic: check. Pointless remake of early-’70s kiddie classic… There’s not a single shot in the trailer that differs significantly from its 1971 counterpart, aside from the “Wonka Walks into a Wall” gag. I’ll watch damn near anything with Johnny Depp in it though. So we’ll see.

    A film version of Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator would have had plenty of opportunities to twit on American politics, creepy scenes of people de-aging past zero, and a space hotel full of Earth-invading Vermicious Knids. Much more interesting.

  9. While the necessity of remaking the “Chocolate Factory” story may be dubious, I definitely think Depp is the best choice for the role of Wonka.

  10. Johnny Depp’s Wonka won’t have to be much to one-up Gene Wilder.

    I just reprised that old Willie Wonka thing with the House Blonde and Jake (my kids) last weekend and it hasn’t aged well. Good god it was bad enough back then, but now it’s just a dated psuedo-pyschedelic bore.

    But, the kids liked it well enough so I kept my old yap shut. Did trade a few raised eyebrows and some snickers with the old lady though.

  11. As a kid growing up in the 70s, I don’t have *ANY* fond memories of the kid movies of my youth. All my best cinematic experiences were being taken to (or sneaking into) stuff like Live and Let Die, Blazing Saddles, Bad News Bears, and at one especially confusing birthday party for a 10-year old friend, the Missouri Breaks.

    As far as I’m concerned, we’re now in the fucking golden age of kids movies, what with Nick Park and Pixar and the Spidermans, etc.

    My seven year old boy has read Charlie twenty times and can point out all the differences between the old movie and the book. But he too is creeped out by the new preview and has not exactly begged us to go.

  12. Title scared me for a minute. Thought Warners had performed a publicity killing.

  13. Gene Wilder was great in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex. Spreading the roast chicken’s legs and screaming “My god, couldn’t you have not eaten today?” Classic

  14. Shem,

    The one trailer I’ve seen suggests that it will depict the contempt that Wonka has for kids. The funny (?) thing is that – and I think I remember this from the book as well as the movie – the only class of people that Wonka despises more than kids is adults. So in that regard, Wonka only hates kids because he hates people.

  15. I’m going to go ahead and disagree with Tim a little on his disdain for the Children’s movies of the 60s and 70s. At least those movies didn’t feel the need to wink at the parents every 5 minutes. There were some great films – Escape to Witch Mountain rocked if you were 7, which I was.

    And I never saw Mary Poppins until a few years ago and I was surprised what a babe Julie Andrews was. Imagine, a beautiful actress who can actually sing.

  16. 1) Hated Wonka as a movie, as I hate all musicals (which is what I classify a movie if signing starts for no damn good reason).
    2) Really liked Wilder as Wonka- I have, as an adult, replayed his summersault dozens of times, and it is imossible to state when he bends his neck and completes the roll rather than breaking his head open. Absolutely amazing! Seriously a well made movement.
    3) Depp will amaze, as usual. He has never had a poor performance (I am all about absolutes today).
    4) Escape From Witch Mountain (thanks fro reminding me of that one, Vanya) is still outstanding. It is, dare I say, timeless.

  17. I saw a sneak preview of of the movie last night (in IMAX no less) and it was pretty entertaining. The beginning still remains boring exposition and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but the factory tour is magnificent.

    Depp plays the role differently than Wilder. He is, as they say, delightfully weird. Amazingly enough, the added Wonka’s childhood back story actually works.

  18. I don’t know how anybody could complain about the old Willy Wonka movie, since it was responsible for giving us Sammy Davis’s version of Candy Man. 1972 just wouldn’t have been the same without it.

  19. Speaking of, any bets on when we’ll be seeing an Apple Dumpling Gang remake?

    Yeah, I was 8 or 10 when I saw Merry Poppins (on videotape when we had chickenpox) and even then I knew Dick Van Dyke’s accent was as authentic as Taco Bell. They should have had him be a magical chimney sweep who has an american accent for some unexplained reason.

    I want to know why the put Fred MacMurray in all those 60s kiddy films. That guy was a charisma free zone. Same with the guy in those Herbie movies. . . Dean something?

  20. Wilder’s Wonka sucked. Wait-scratch that. Reverse it.

    I may actually see the new version, if I can borrow someone’s kids so I don’t feel silly buying the tickets.

  21. True story: The station I work at aired Mary Poppins one quiet Sunday afternoon. Unbeknowst to us, someone in the sales department had scheduled some ads for a company with a vaguely pharmacutical name. The two-minute ads were for a male enhancement supplement.
    The third segment of the movie faded to black on a close-up of Van Dyke’s smiling face, his schnoz almost poking the camera. Then the words
    zoomed onto the screen in big glowing red letters.
    My crew and I scrambled. We put the “Please Stand By” graphic up to buy us time, recued and rejoined the film, but the damage was done. The news department called up to Master Control saying they were getting a bunch of angry phone calls.

    There as nothing nearly as satisfying as chewing out a careless salesperson on a Monday morning…

  22. I know what you mean No. 6. I felt like a total molester when I went to see PowerPuff Girls. Which probably explains why it was a box office bomb.

  23. Wilder had a perfect mix of crazy, sinister, aloof and charming as Wonka. Depp seems to be following Burton’s apparent fetish for pasty-white weirdos with daddy issues.

    On the other hand,”Cheer Up Charlie” makes me want to hang myself, so the new version will at least have that going for it.

  24. For a G-rated kids movie, it was surprising in the 1971 version to see a chicken getting its head chopped off. (projected on the wall of the tunnel while they were on the Wonkatania)

    Come to think of it, the intense tunnel scene, Charlie and Grampa heading towards the blades after the Fizzy Lifting drinks, would this movie even get a G if it were released nowadays?

  25. I don’t know how anybody could complain about the old Willy Wonka movie, since it was responsible for giving us Sammy Davis’s version of Candy Man.

    Because Sammy doesn’t sing it in the movie, that’s why. Having forgotten that “Candy Man” originated with the movie, I was shocked and appalled when some charisma-challenged counterman at the candy store breaks into Anthony Newley’s of a song that should only be sung by Sammy, the Rat Pack’s only real talent. (I’d even forgotten that Tony Newley wrote the song, God rest his soul.) Why didn’t they cast Sammy in that part? Who was more suited to falsely youthful mid-life pseudo-psycheadelia than Sammy?

  26. Candyman?

    Tim’s right about that, they should have cast Sammy in the part. I was shocked as well by the charisma challenged counterman (great visual, Tim). Shocked that there was a version of the song even worse than the pop hit that played on every radio station every fifteen minutes for the better half of the 1970’s (or so it seems).

    And people bitched about Stairway to Heaven being overplayed.

  27. The fact that Wonka doesn’t show up until 45 minutes into WWatCF somehow never bothered me when I was a child. Mind you, I grew up pre-MTV.

    Anyway, that movie is awesome, as was “Escape to Witch Mountain.”

    Of course, mostly when I was a kid, I was watching Godzilla movies and late-night horror flicks on UHF television.

    And my dad took me to see Clint Eastwood’s “The Gauntlet” when I was 4. His parenting skills are the stuff of legend.

  28. The counterman isn’t charisma challenged. He’s British.

  29. For a G-rated kids movie, it was surprising in the 1971 version to see a chicken getting its head chopped off. (projected on the wall of the tunnel while they were on the Wonkatania)

    For years I was under the misapprehension that kids’ films are better when they contain stuff that adults can grok. I was buttressed in this by memories of my own childhood, when I would rather have seen one Dawn of the Dead than a thousand Willy Wonkas. Now, seeing that a) sophistication means little to kids and b) the only thing you want out of a kids’ picture is that it keep the kids entertained, I realize I was wrong. The reason I only wanted to see grownup movies back then is that the kids’ movies were universally terrible. The opposite is true now because, as mccleary notes, we’re in a golden age of children’s entertainment. I would trade every inside gag and grownup allusion in every handholder picture for anything that keeps the kids amused and off my back for another minute. If you want a non-tech, non-demographic explanation for why Shrek 2 was a disappointment, it’s that it was so full of in jokes and winks to the parents and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s efforts to work out his anti-Disney obsession that they forgot to put together something kids would like. For me, the only mystery is why both Shreks didn’t bomb like the Enola Gay in theaters and on DVD.

  30. I read somewhere that Johnny Depp modeled his version of Willy-Wonka on Michael Jackson, much like his Pirates of the Carribean character was reportedly based on Keith Richards. That could be why his Willy comes across as a child molester with daddy issues.

  31. Depp denies the Michael Jackson story. He says he modeled his performance on children’s TV hosts like Fred Rogers and Capt. Kangaroo.

  32. Whoa! The best reason to see Burton’s movie of all: Geoffrey Holder does the narration! What kind of world are we living in where the Uncola man hasn’t done a picture in six years?

  33. Unfortunately a lot of stuff you thought was cool as a kid actually sucked. It’s often better just to keep them as memories. I remember in college I was excited to see that Knight Rider was coming on TNT. I loaded up the bowl and got ready to be transported back to my childhood. I watched five minuets and realized that the show sucked. I wanted to call my parents and apologize for forcing them watch crap like that when I was a kid. But I didn’t, because I was too baked to find the phone and The A-Team was coming on next.

    All that being said, I would kill to see just one episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey. But only because dogs with eye patches are cool.

  34. I wanted to call my parents and apologize for forcing them watch crap like that when I was a kid. But I didn’t, because I was too baked to find the phone and The A-Team was coming on next.


  35. “Tales of the Gold Monkey”

    I preferred “Bring ’em Back Alive.”

  36. Bring ’em Back Alive was a cheap Indiana Jones rip off that CBS pushed onto the air to counter Tales of the Gold Monkey. Many people assume that Tales of the Gold Monkey was a Raiders rip off as well, but it was actually conceived in 1979 as an homage to 1930s and 40s action flicks. However, Raiders success was probably why ABC green lighted it. It lasted 22 episodes and was starting to build an audience when ABC yanked it because it didn’t fit with their personality at the time. Not to mention the show’s massive budget. Bring ’em Back Alive didn’t even make it through the season. TOTGM had great sets, a cool cast (Roddy McDowell), sweet WWII aircraft, a dog with an eye patch and the word Monkey in the title. What more could you want?

    Besides, Boxlightener was much better on The Fall Guy. Fuck Bring ’em Back Alive and Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

    Christ, I know way too much about Tales of the Gold Monkey and 80s TV in general. I’m going to go have sex with my wife now because it’s amazing I ever met a woman.

  37. Because Sammy doesn’t sing it in the movie, that’s why.

    He wouldn’t have sung it if there had been no movie. The only interesting thing about that song was that somehow Spiro Agnew didn’t think it was a drug song, go figure.

  38. I think I missed the point once again of Cavanaugh’s sly wit. Silly me.

  39. I for one am going to stand up for those older movies. Maybe I wasn’t cooler-than-thou enough, but I laughed my ass off at the Apple Dumpling Gang, I thoroughly enjoyed Herbie, and I never read the fucking book so I loved Willy Wonka. I would never have considered it Gene Wilder’s signature movie though, so I don’t know why people would get defensive about a remake on his account.

    Maybe kids movies are better now, for *today’s* kids. I don’t know why kids movies should be criticized for being any less timeless than any other pop culture crap. It *is* however timeless for the people that grew up with it, and I don’t think anyone should apologize for that.

  40. The thing about B`EBA, which borrowed its title from the 1932 film, is that its hero, Frank Buck, was a real-life Great White Hunter. Half the 1930s-40s’ fictional adventurers, from Jungle Jim to Nyoka, were Buck pastiches, and Prof. Jones follows in that tradition. Complaining about a Buck show ripping off Raiders is like grousing that The Shadow reminds them of The Batman.

    I was out of the target demo for the first Wonka film. I did see Poppins in the theatre in first run, and enjoyed it thoroughly, faux Cockney accents and all. I actually read the Poppins books, which I remember as being seriously weird.


  41. Wilder is a brilliant Wonka (I rewind and rewatch his somersault as well), but otherwise the original movie has all the flair of a high school play.

    As for the remake, let’s hope that Burton puts his visual genius to some actual storytelling. Dahl deserves a classic movie.

  42. You gave us quite a lot to chew on there, Tim. I’ve got two cents for everything.

    I’ve been all about the “Why remake a classic” when it came to Bad News Bears, The Longest Yard, and Others. I had the same reflex when I heard the news about Wonka, until I saw that it was a Tim Burton project. Then I thought, “this could be interesting”.

    I don’t know if this demonstrates that Gen-X has finally become their parents, but history shows that they inevitably will.

    The 45 minutes of pointless exposition, served to make Wonka’s character, when he did appear, that much more bizarre and magical.
    Oh and don’t be diss’n Jack Albertson. Jack Albertson was The Man.

    I don’t think kids movies have gotten better on the whole. They just suffer from a different form of neurosis, as has been mentioned above. You are dead right about the Disney live action flicks (Whitch Mountain being a notable exception). I saw them all in the theater, and loved them, as a child. But they didn’t hold up, even a few years later when they came to television, pure dregs. You are wrongity wrong wrong in regards to Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I’ve seen both several times as an adult and they are masterpieces of entertainment. (Though I concede your point on Dick’s accent. Just doesn’t bother me for some reason.)

    Thanks for the info on Dahl. That shit is every bit as wondrously weird as it should be.

    The only thing I have to say about Gene Wilder, is that Gilda Radner was too good for him.

  43. BRING THEM BACK ALIVE was also the title of a book by Frank Buck. I can remember my fourth grade teacher reading it to us in class, ‘though it wasn’t specificly written for kids. I was twenty or so and stationed on a carrier off the coast of ‘Nam when the original version of Wonka came out. I don’t know why they would send a kids movie out for a bunch of sailors to watch, but I do remember it being boring as hell. I don’t think it would have appealed to me even if I had been only ten. But BRING THEM BACK ALIVE would have.

  44. I guess that should have been BRING EM BACK ALIVE. Sorry.

  45. I watched five minuets and realized that the show sucked. I wanted to call my parents and apologize for forcing them watch crap like that when I was a kid.

    No need — the crap they watched intentionally was probably just as bad. Catch a re-run of Bonanza anytime recently? Oh, my god…

  46. Then there’s this…


    And how dare you flippantly dismiss Kurt Russell’s earlier Disney career. “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” was a classic, dude. AFI Silver Series Freakin’ CLASSIC.

  47. I’m holding out some small hope that Burton won’t screw this up. Depp will be fine as Wonka as he is a great actor (sidenote: Keith Richards will be in the next Pirates flick). Burton, however, has not made a good film in some time, now. Perhaps he will find his muse again with the right material and Depp.

    I’m MUCH more worried about a re-make of The Bad News Bears. Someone will probably remove the kid’s swearing in the script just to be PC.

  48. Depp as Wonka is channeling Leslie Caron.

  49. I never though of it that way before, but Wilder’s entrance in the film is akin to Orson Welles’ appearance in The Third Man.

  50. Hate to be contrarian, but it doesn’t seem to me that Wilder changed his mind about anything between those two quotes.

    In the first, he talks about how Hollywood, and this remake, are all about money (duh), and says that he loves Johnny Depp but doesn’t see how he can possibly improve on his own Wonka performance.

    In the second, he says (again) that he loves Johnny Depp and that if he were casting a Wonka remake, he’d cast Depp too.

    What’s the problem? I agree with each of these statements. The remake is all for money, I love Depp but there’s no way he improves on Wilder’s performance, but if I were to cast a remake Depp is the perfect choice.

    Certainly no comparison at all to Brando.

    Also: the 45-minute wait for Wonka to show up only makes the complete transformation of the movie after that point all the more amazing. I’ve watched it many times as an adult (sober, even), and it is truly a great movie.

    I used to love Witch Mountain and Mary Poppins, but haven’t seen them lately. Saw both anew when in my teens and remember liking them still. Never had much use for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang though.

  51. I’m MUCH more worried about a re-make of The Bad News Bears.

    Me too. Every time I see that hilarious movie, I think “There’s no way they could make this today”. The new one is rated PG-13. ‘Nuff said.

  52. good call on Witch Mountain.

    Chitty Chitty Bang bang makes you wish that Ian Flemming took up needlepoint or something other than writing!

    if they remake musicals, how about “Bugsey Malone”, or does shooting people with whipped cream guns constitute a negatively violent image?


  53. What drives me nuts about the coverage of this movie is that everyone assumes it’s a remake of the 70s movie. It is not; it is a more accurate version of the book. I’m glad to be rid of the music. Only a few of the songs were any good.

  54. If anyone saw the Lemony Snicket film, you’ll be familiar with just how different adults and kids can react to a movie. When I saw it (with my young daughter), I thought it was a pretty miserable film with some interesting sets and cinematography. I was certain that the kids wouldn’t like it that much. Wrong, every kid leaving that theatre was visibly excited and immediately engaged in conversation about it. Each parent I saw was either loudly voicing their displeasure (“hateful” was a term I heard more than once) or looked shell-shocked.
    The whole experience definitely gave light to my suspicion that far too many kid’s movies are really made for adults (Shrek 2 being a perfect example, as someone pointed out). It was good to see the kids get one for themselves. Also, I think the popularity of the Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter franchise bodes well foir CatCF, since the book is actually quite dark. Kids love dark books and movies.

  55. Gene Wilder hands Johnny Depp his ass here:

    “I like Johnny Depp and I appreciate that he has said on the record that my shoes would be hard to fill. But I don’t know how it will all turn out. Right now, the only thing that does take some of the edge off this for me is that Willy Wonka’s name isn’t in the title.”

    Is this Depp getting his ass handed to him Tim, or did I miss the relevent part?

  56. Didn’t mean to over diss Bring ’em Back Alive. I wasn’t aware of its pedigree. But, as far as the 80s incarnation, it was definitely more derivative of Raiders than Tales of the Gold Monkey.

    Bugsy Malone was a weird ass movie. Between the mock violence and over sexualized kids I don’t think it could get made today.

    A PG-13 Bad News Bears is a travesty. I think the thing that sucks the most about 70s remakes, besides the lack of vulgarities, is that so many of these films had a spirit of rebellion and poignancy to them that is just plain watered down and lost today. Even feel good sports flicks like the The Longest Yard and Bad News Bears had bittersweet endings. In both of them, even though the underdog triumphed, you knew that that was about as good as it was ever going to get for the protagonists. The prisoners went back to their cells and the kids went back to their shitty lives. I’m obviously choosing to ignor BNBs lame sequels.

    Now my submission for the coolest 80s kids movie that has yet to be topped: Time Bandits.

  57. I bet it will suck the same way all Tim Burton movies suck.

    Hey, shut yer yam hole! They’re not all bad.

  58. Time Bandits…. cool movie. good call.

    PG13 movies suck, anyways. Make ’em NC17 🙂

  59. The Bears lost at the end of the original, who wants to bet that they win at the end of the remake?

  60. “Now my submission for the coolest 80s kids movie that has yet to be topped: Time Bandits.”

    Is that really a “kids” movie?

    In any case, I’m surprised the “Goonies” partisans haven’t piped up yet.

  61. David,
    Isn’t this the same guy who brought us Ghost World and Crumb? I’m going to suspend my judgement. I don’t think that this director is your typical Hollywood type.

  62. David,

    I’m holding some hope that Linklater is smarter than that, but I doubt it. They’ll probably win on an Engleberg home run.

    On a side note. I saw a guy in NYC with a Chico’s Bail Bonds jersey. I’m not really into the grown-ups wearing sports jerseys unless they are playing a game, but I want that jersey.

  63. Johnny Depp, a great actor? What are you people smoking? Johnny Depp is either dull or weird or sometimes both at the same time.

  64. Fortunately for me, my parents didn’t take me to many of those awful Disney live-action movies of the early ’70s. I think I had to sit through one of the Herbie movies, but I only vaguely remember it. On the other hand, I vividly remember my parents taking me to see “Patton” when I was 4–I started imitating the general’s, umm, ‘vocabulary’… 🙂

    Of course we are becoming like our parents. GenX has always had a stick up its butt and an inferiority complex. So why wouldn’t we turn into a bunch of humorless scolds?

  65. From what I’ve heard, when the new Bad News Bears was test screened, parents complained that the team lost in the end. “That’s the whole point,” the director said, and refused to change it.

    As for kid’s movies, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” I miss kids’ movies that feature screaming banshees, drunken old men in pubs, and Sean Connery punching someone in the face.

    I also enjoyed Disney’s “weird” phase, when they made Dragonslayer and TRON. Are those kids films? I don’t know. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was JAWS. After that, PINOCCHIO. Loved Jaws. Pinocchio scared the crap out of me, and I spent most fo the film squatting down behind the seats, hiding my eyes.


  66. How about 70s porn remakes? Imagine Debbie Does Dallas with better grooming and less sagging.

  67. A fairly consistent “why remake a classic?” theme has run through nearly all coverage of the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,

    I’m waiting for the day, 30 or 40 years hence, when the Star Wars ‘prequels’ get remade by a director/producer who actually care about the story, the characters, and the universe more than what to name every 10th rate cameo character so they can make an action figure for it. Someone (unlike Lucas) who can direct people, for God’s sake, write dialogue that doesn’t sound like it was translated into German and back, and who really loves the Star Wars story. I really don’t think George really cared about it, and it showed in Episodes I, II, and III.

  68. Frankly, I think Johnny Depp is too good-looking to do weird and crazy roles. And I too, cannot imagine him topping Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. That said, Depp is at least an interesting actor, but he’s one of these modern, understated types. Did I mention how much I disliked Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman in The Avengers movie? Not that it was a bad movie, but they utterly failed to capture the charm of the original series and actors.
    Escape to Witch Mountain: Kim Richards-sigh…
    I liked Mary Poppins, but never much cared for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

  69. Ralphus:
    oh my. mercy.

  70. “…Generation X has finally become the same bunch of boring, rigid, back-in-my-day turds our parents were, this phenomenon has an additional point of interest.”

    …I would argue that it’s because of Generation X that people still think of Wonka today. …all those re-runs on TV are what kept it in our minds, and those were GenX viewers doin’ all that watchin’. …are you kidding?

    …and I’m yet to see Depp’s Wonka, so I can’t say whether it’s better or worse than Wilder’s. But I can say that if it isn’t, I’m gonna blast it! That doesn’t make me as boring and rigid as–for Christ sake–baby-boomers! …yuck!

    I don’t mind that Hollywood endlessly recycles Generation X classics for Y or Echo or whomever–I just want to see something better than the original. Did I blast The Lion King? No, I didn’t. Why didn’t I blast the The Lion King? …because it was better than Kimba.

    …Recyled Kimba + Better than Kimba = No Blast.

    …And I’m not sure I understand how Kurt Russell made any huge missteps with Disney. …People loved those films! …People loved The Strongest Man in the World. …and, no, The Apple Dumpling Gang didn’t win any big following, but what about Gus? …What about Flubber? …Aren’t we forgetting about Flubber?

  71. Keith,
    I thought my kid would be terrified by Lord of the Rings, she loved it and didn’t even flinch. THe movie that frickin’ terrified her was Toy Story 2. Woody losing an arm was extremely upsetting for her. So much so that we had to leave the theatre.

    I also admit that I mistook Linklater with someone else re: BNB. I am a doofus. I probably just got confused because Billy Bob Thorton looks so much like his character in Bad Santa in the previews.

  72. “Woody losing an arm was extremely upsetting for her. So much so that we had to leave the theatre.”

    I’ve heard parents complain about Disney films always killin’ off the parents early, but it’s other stuff that I remember gettin’ freaked out about.

    …Wonka being a great example, it wasn’t clear until the end of the movie that the fat kid didn’t end up in the furnace, that spoiled brat didn’t end up gettin’ baked, that the blueberry girl didn’t end up exploding and the the TV kid didn’t end up miniaturized for life. …That’s pretty freaky.

    There’s that part in The Wizard of Oz where the scarecrow has been messed up by the flying monkeys–I hate flying monkeys–and he’s trying to push all his straw guts back into himself and screamin’ somethin’ or other. …That’s pretty freaky too.

  73. Goonies was good, I liked it when it came out and my kids like it on DVD as well.

    Now if you really want to go Weigh Back in the machine, how about Ghost and Mister Chicken? I don’t know how well that has held up over the years because I haven’t seen it in 40 years but at the time I saw it a half dozen times and LMAO every time.

    Why Remake A Classic?

    I’d rather see an attempt at a remake than another sequel (although I do think Hollywierd has gotten better at sequels).

    Sometimes it doesn’t work (Thomas Crown Affair & Manchurian Candidate) but sometimes it does. Embarrassing as it may be, I’m working way too hard to come up with an example of a remake worth seeing. Okay, it’s a stretch back but I liked Heaven Can Wait & Always VBG

    Okay, maybe I’m not that hot for remakes afterall but I’m going to see Longest Yard.

  74. I found that the way to handle Dick Van Dyke’s accent is to imagine that that’s how a chimneysweep talks in a London where nannies can fly by raising their umbrellas.

    Oh, and Julie Andrews is still hot (I know, probably because she can afford face lifts). And I think she was robbed when she didn’t get the My Fair Lady movie gig.

  75. With Billy Bob involved I think the swearing will stay in the new BNB, probably stepped up if anything. Of course it won’t have the impact it had back in ’76 when a whole country of 4th graders went around all summer saying “you can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straignt up your ass!” Nowadays that hardly qualifies as profanity.

  76. Tom,

    Wizard of Oz freaked me out as a kid. I HATE that movie to this day. So much so that I won’t even let my own kids watch it.

    And Gen X’ers are cool, they gave the world decent coffee, something that we baby boomers took away from every place except Seattle and San Francisco. And all because the Beat Generation sat around in coffee houses and that was soooooo ancient, and anything more than three minutes ago was so, like, out. With our disdain and sheer numbers, we made it impossible to get a decent cup of coffee for two decades. Thank you Gen X for restoring the balance to reality.

  77. I also think that Burton may be suffering from low expectations after his extremely bad quasi-remake of The Planet of the Apes. It’s not like he’s never screwed up a classic before. …He may have killed the franchise.

    …Having said that, I think that The Nightmare before Christmas is one of the best children’s films ever created, I’m looking forward to Corpse Bride and I think Edward Scissorhands is a classic for the ages.

  78. Tom,
    Don’t forget Ed Wood. That movie was brilliant.

  79. I remember being disturbed by the Bumble in Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. He looked ready to cause serious mayhem.

  80. “Don’t forget Ed Wood. That movie was brilliant.”

    I credit Martin Landau for that. He gave an excellent performance, it was right up there with Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    There’s a great debate to be had at a dinner party between enthusiasts for Landau’s performance in Ed Wood versus Willem Dafoe’s performance in Shadow of the Vampire. …Yeah, I know…you’d definitely have to have the right guests.

  81. Who cares what you think about movies?

  82. Tom,
    That’s a conversation I would have trouble with as both performances are among my all-time favorites.

    Do these debates ever end in violence? thrown dinner rolls? sour feelings and/or lifelong grudges?

  83. “Who cares what you think about movies?”

    Are you talkin’ to me?

    …Lots of people. You’d be surprised!

    People e-mail me askin’ what I think. People call me up on weekends, just to find out what I think about “movies”.

    Are you talkin’ to Tim?

    …’cause I care what Tim thinks about “movies”, and a lot of other things too.

    P.S. If no one you know cares about what you think of movies, for goodness sake, you should get out more.


    I’ve been to and enjoyed dinner parties where no one yells or pounds on the table, but I don’t know how to throw one.

  84. Just read an interview in the Dallas Morning News with a local kid who is in the new Bad News Bears.


    “The script had some bad words in it,” said K.C., a seventh grader at the Shelton School in North Dallas. “I didn’t want to say them.”

    Kenneth Harris said that despite his son’s refusal to read the lines during his audition, the casting director liked him. And when K.C. got the role, filmmakers changed the script to accommodate him.

    “From a parent’s perspective, you want your child to understand right and wrong and have moral character. I was really proud of him,” Mr. Harris said. “and I applaud Paramount. They listened, and they made changes.”

    End quote.

    Ok. Number one: if you want your kid to have moral character don’t send them to Hollywood and especially don’t have them audition for the role of a foul mouth kid in the Bad News Bears. Cussing, smoking kids are one of the main reasons its funny. (I’m betting the smoking is out too)

    Number two: I doubt Paramount made the changes just for some snot nosed kid from Dallas.

    Number Three: what kind of a pussy is this kid? A seventh grader that doesn’t like to cuss? Someone is begging for a swrily. He’s lucky he goes to private school.

  85. There’s a great debate to be had at a dinner party between enthusiasts for Landau’s performance in Ed Wood versus Willem Dafoe’s performance in Shadow of the Vampire. …Yeah, I know…you’d definitely have to have the right guests.

    Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu puts them both in the shithouse. It was strange that in all the Shadow of the Vampire publicity, nobody mentioned mad Kinski as the reason it was possible to go back and reassess Shreck’s original performance. If ever a vampire actor was a vampire in real life, it was Kinski.

  86. Tim,
    Kinski was great, but is it possible that the presence of Isabelle Adjani in that movie may have skewed your opinion a bit? It would certainly be understandable.

  87. ralphus,

    All that being said, I would kill to see just one episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey.

    So sayeth, it is done:


    And no one has to die!!

    Bring ’em Back Alive is based on the 1930 book by Frank Buck and Edward Anthony; the Hugginkiss Library contains a copy recovered at a used book sale. I don’t think it was ever reprinted, but it’s definitely worth a read if you can find it (maybe at a library). The very last chapter where he faces off against a king cobra — a servant is carrying a crate to Buck with a record-breaking 13-footer inside, he drops it, the crate smashes, and the cobra rises up in front of Buck — is a pulse-pounding read.

  88. Amanda,

    I could hug and kiss you.

    Thanks for the heads up on Bring ’em Back Alive as well. As a pulp junkie I will seek out the book as if it we’re the legendary Gold Monkey itself.

  89. Me too. Every time I see that hilarious movie, I think “There’s no way they could make this today”. The new one is rated PG-13. ‘Nuff said.

    I just saw it last week for the first time in a while, and had the exact same reaction. It’s not just the swearing, but there are so many other things that would never fly today:

    * the line about the team being a bunch of “jews, spics, niggers, pansies and a booger-eatin’ moron”;

    * the beer and Jack in the car;

    * piling a dozen kids into a car (No booster seats! No seat belts! Horrors!);

    * The smoking;

    * the borderline child abuse, by both Morrow and Matthau;

    * the casting of actual children in the roles, and allowing them to say those mean nasty words.

    It’ll probably end up being comparable to CatCF – there’s no way Matthau can be matched, but Billy Bob is the absolute best chance they have to make it work.

  90. Ugh. I remember being forced to watch this old snooze-fest in the fifth grade (my only exposure to it). I’ve not watched it again. I figure if a kids’ movie couldn’t entertain me as a member of its target audience, it probably couldn’t entertain me now.

  91. Someone on Fox news just described the new Wonka as “obviously” the Michael Jackson story: “a middle aged white guy who wears make-up, lures children into his fortress and then does things to them that he should prosecuted for.”

  92. I was never bothered by the absence of Wonka through the first half, in a way it provided for a buildup that in many way resembled the the anticipation of the children as they waited for Wonka outside the gates. The book was pretty much the same as far as Wonka eluding the public for so many years as well as the reader for so many pages. All that is there to explain Charlie who, not Wonka, is the titular character as well as the frenzy of the public to enter the factory which shows the popularity of Wonka himself. The music I feel was fantastic (well, maybe not the Cheer Up Charlie song). My friends and I would watch that movie so many time, and we who grew up alongside MTV, and never once get bored.

    Wilder was perfect as Wonka and I would have loved to see him reprise the role as I think he could still pull it off and make a whole new classic.

  93. I saw Mary Poppins in its entirety for the first time ever a few months ago. Aside from being a very mediocre movie (save for a couple of the better songs), it’s blatantly anti-capitalist. How did left-wing dreck like this get past Walt when he was still live and unfrozen?

  94. Gene Wilder doesn’t show up until 45 minutes into the movie because the movie is about CHARLIE and the Chocolate Factory.

    Not to be a Wonka wonk or anything, but whereas both the original book and the Depp movie are titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they decided to name the first movie with Gene Wilder Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

    However, I seem to recally watching a couple of 1950s/1960s scifi horror movies where you didn’t really get a good look at the titular monster until at least halfway through the movie. So there’s precedent.

  95. “Oh and don’t be diss’n Jack Albertson. Jack Albertson was The Man.”

    Now that’s something I think we can all agree on.

    And if I’d known this post would lead to a Tales of the Gold Monkey revival, I’d have put it up years ago. Should I start a separate discussion of why the strangely ageless Steven Collins looks almost the same today as he did when he made All the President’s Men?

  96. The Gold Monkey has many magical powers. Timeless youth is one. Unfortunatley, the trade off is you end up on 7th Heaven.

  97. “Tales of the Golden Monkey” carried ont he long tradition of 1930s plane mechanics being named Corky or Itchy or some other silly name. I haven’t seent he shw since it’s original airing (though I know it was on in reruns just a few years ago on some cable channel). All I remember is the dog’s glass eye getting gambled away all the time, and the commercial for an episode that said, “Next week on Tales of the Golden Monkey: Corkey gets shanghai’d!”

    What I want to know is, when are they putting “The Highwayman” out on DVD? If “Sledge Hammer” gets a two-volume box set, surely there’s room for this truck-drivin’ show featuring the screaming, bleach-blond Australian spokesman for Energizer (or was it Duracell?)

  98. I saw Mary Poppins at the age of 12 and Julie Andrews kick-started my puberty. I remember wondering what was beneath that buttoned up bodice. It took fifteen years for me to find out, but it was worth wait. Thank you, Julie Andrews for SOB.

    The hills are alive…with the sound of music…

  99. I think that there isn’t a need for a new Willy Wonka. I will have the old one running in mind the whole time and will just be dissapointed no matter if it matches the book or not. So, I am going to not see it. Gene did it the way it should be for kids to view it. I have seen it at least 200 times. The book is darker and if you want to read it that is your perogative, but I think that kids should see the old one. Why do we have to twist and manipulate everyting? I am a huge fan of Depp and Burton, but I think that this one should have been left as is. I wish someone could be original and quit remaking the classics. Isn’t there any material left out there?

  100. the new version of this wonderful classic film was ruined by tim burton, his crew and johnny depp. what a pitty.

  101. jonny depp and the other guy are both good and u ppl can suck me cock.

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