Friday, January 06, 2006

Bad Year for Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder is mainly known for three movies - The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (plus two movies where he played second bananna to black stars - Blazing Saddles and the Silver Streak). Two of those movies were remade in 2005. In both cases the production values and expectations were much higher.

I just saw the new Producers last week and the original Willy Wonka last night which gives me some insights on Wilder's career.

Anyone who has seen much of Wilder knows that he is not a great actor. anyone who has seen The World's Greatest Lover knows that Wilder can be really awful.

Watching Willy Wonka I was noticed that the character was not really going anywhere. In the remake, Johnny Depp plays Willy as someone obcessed with making chocolate but who is afraid of people in general and children specifically. Wilder just plays that character as a Gene Wilder character.

I first saw The Producers after seeing Blazing Saddles and I was dissapointed. It seemed like it should have been funnier. It was like a Shakespearian commedy = Wilder and Zero Mostel were doing things that should have been funny but most of the laughs just weren't there. The remake fixes that. The plot has been revised a bit and musical numbers added. The acting and staging are still pretty close to the stage version which helps a lot. Some things will get a laugh on the stage but not on the screen. I saw one critic complain that they hadn't "calibrated the performances up" for the big screen but I disagree. That would have made the movie overblown instead of funny.

Both Johnny Depp and Mathew Broderick are real actors, able to play completely different characters. This just points up the problems in Gene Wilder's version even more.

Good thing no one has talked about remaking Young Frankenstein.

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