Adapted from the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a beloved, endearing family classic, one that's cherished for its imaginative sets, lovable characters, charming musical numbers, darkly quirky sense of humor, and its outstanding Gene Wilder performance. It's not flawless but it's timeless for a reason. It's also my favorite movie. That said, there are a lot of things in this celebrated film that don't exactly... make sense.
It's a fantastical film, so you don't need to question its believability. But even within the world's logic, there are some odd touches that don't add up. While I love it wholeheartedly, and I hope that never changes, here are a few things that don't really make sense.
Grandpa Joe Claims He Hasn't Left The House in 20 Years, Yet He Somehow Sneakily Grabbed Charlie A Wonka Chocolate Bar?
Grandpa Joe is a loving, caring grandparent/father figure — despite what you might hear otherwise — who only wants the best for Charlie in this cruel, unforgiving world. But he undeniably has secrets, or he's a pathological liar. Either way, Joe is up to some tricks. Or maybe he's a wizard, because some things don't compute. For instance, while it's established that Grandpa Joe has been bedridden with the other Bucket elders for two decades, when he's talking to a depressed Charlie late into the night, Granda Joe pulls out a Wonka chocolate bar — somehow — and gives it to his grandson. While Charlie claims Joe used his tobacco money to pay for it, how did he get it in the first place?
Either the Buckets were fibbing and/or exaggerating about the whole "20 years in bed" thing (which might be true if he was buying his own tobacco), or he's been making stealthy trips outside for years. Or he teleports through his magical bed. Either way, something's up, and no explanation is given for how Grandpa Joe grabbed this chocolate bar. In any case, Joe's good deed didn't do much good. The chocolate bar only contained candy, though it'd only be a matter of time before Charlie finds the winning ticket.
Grandpa Joe Has Been Bedridden For Decades, Yet The Minute Charlie Gets A Golden Ticket, He's As Spry As Can Be
Additionally, when Charlie Bucket finds the fifth, final Willy Wonka golden ticket, the boy hurries home as quickly as he can to tells the family about his great fortunes. After a minute, Charlie realizes he can bring one other family member with him into the mysterious factory. Even though his dear mother has been nothing but caring, loving, and considerate for Charlie all his life, he wants Grandpa Joe to come along for this expedition. The great elation of this unbelievable moment not only allows Joe to finally get his ass out of bed but to produce a song and dance for the joyous occasion. While this is a wonderfully pure sequence of cinematic bliss, it does raise several questions about Joe's bedridden claims.
Now, I'm not a doctor. Maybe I'm speaking out-of-turn. But while Grandpa Joe makes a big show out of taking his first steps in years (again, so he says ...), he's as spry as a spring chicken after a moment. This raises even more doubt into Joe being bedridden. How do his feeble old legs not buckle? How can he jump, dance and even skip around the house after standing on his own two legs for the first time in 20 years? Not a doctor here, but Grandpa Joe's legs would be wobbly Jello after such an extended amount of time laying in bed. Again, I believe Grandpa Joe keeps secrets ...
The Candy Man Throws Candy Out Willy-Nilly, Yet He's Strangely Stingy When Charlie Comes Into The Store
During the wonderful opening music number, we're introduced to a happy-go-lucky candy salesman who delights in giving sugary treats to young kids in the neighborhood. He sings about the wonders of Willy Wonka, and all the magical joy he brings through his chosen occupation — yet, later on, when Charlie waltzes into the store himself, this candy-selling gentlemen gets weirdly, even meanly stingy with his merchandise. Granted, he's a businessman. I'm not saying he needs to give out candy every day. The guy has bills; if he keeps throwing out his goods, he won't have a store by next year. Still, the Candy Man has a few odd business practices...
Maybe he had a change of heart in the past few months? Maybe the whole golden ticket thing caused more robberies/petty theft for his humble business? Maybe he's low on money now that the Wonka golden ticket promotion is (presumed to be) done? In any case, when Charlie starts woofing down his chocolate and the Candy Man lets out an exaggerated cough while outstretching his hand, aggressively pushing him for his dough, it seems like a radical change from the man we saw in the opening. Personally, I think this is a commentary on society's ill-gained mistrust of the lower working class, and how they're more willing to give handouts to those boys and girls who are better off — personally and financially — than our dear young Charlie Bucket. But that answer isn't fun, now is it?
Willy Wonka Hasn't Left The Confines Of His Factory For Decades, Yet He's Well-Tanned And Well-Nourished
Willy Wonka is a mysterious figure. Part of the reason why we love him so much is because we don't have a full read on the guy. Every little reveal is a magical revelation. You can watch the movie a hundred times (as I have) and still learn something new about this elusive chocolate company owner. He is an enigma, and he should remain one. That's the main reason why I'm nervous about that proposed Willy Wonka prequel. Trying to explain Willy Wonka's origins robs the man of his power. We don't need to know anything about his backstory. His great introduction, where he fools the captive audience by wobbling outside with a cane, only to do a somersault up to the gate, tells you everything you need to know about Wonka.
Still, even when you respect the mystery of Willy Wonka, one is left with questions. For instance, if Willy Wonka was holed up in his factory for decades, never making so much as a cameo to the outside world, how the hell is he so well-nourished and well-tanned? The guy looks as healthy as a mule, but without sunlight or a proper diet (so far as we know, at least, which is very little), how is he keeping himself so fit and tan? While I've got my problems with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (even though I liked it more than some), Wonka's ultra-pale look, unconventional haircut, and poor people skills is more realistic than the charismatic, well-groomed title character here. But, as you'd guess, I wouldn't trade this performance for the world.
How Do The Oompa-Loompas Have A Perfect Song Ready For Each Kid's Downfall?
The Oompa-Loompas are certainly among the most memorable and recognizable characters in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The singing, dancing factory workers were rescued by Willy Wonka and repay their gratitude under his employ. But they carry a few mysteries of their own. For instance, how the hell do they know so much about the winners of these five golden tickets? Additionally, how did they know who'd fall under the pressure at each individual level, and how did they perfectly prepare song-and-dance choreography for each of these doomed children? It's something that, ultimately, I don't think should be questioned. But in the interest of fun, it's amusing to wonder how these Oompa-Loompas are all so all-knowing.
Now, if they had predicted one kid's downfall perfectly ahead of time, you could chalk that up to luck. But the Oompa-Loompas were on the ball all four times. That's spooky. Granted, maybe they had a few back-up songs in mind if, say, Mike Teevee fell in the chocolate river instead of Augustus Gloop or Veruca Salt blew up like a blueberry instead of Violet Beauregarde, But my belief is that these Oompa-Loompas all knew what was gonna go down that day, and they were only waiting until each chip fell before they busted out a tune. There'd be something almost sadistic about these Oompa-Loompas proudly singing-and-dancing for the demise of these ill-behaving children if the musical numbers weren't so damn catchy. I dunno, maybe I'm biased. What I do know is that, similar to Granda Joe and Willy Wonka, these Oompa-Loompas have secrets.
What are some aspects of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that don't make sense to you? Let us know in the comments!
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.