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'Remembering Gene Wilder' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I like the 2005 Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version as well. (This latest “Wonka” with Timothee Chalamet… not so much.) I think Gene Wilder will always be remembered for playing Willy Wonka, along with many other films, including collaborations with Mel Brooks (like “The Producers”, “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”).

We hear a lot from Brooks in the new documentary “Remembering Gene Wilder”, and I think his stories about working together are some of the highlights — those insights into Wilder are fantastic. We learn a lot about Wilder, including how he got into the business and how he loved being on all the movie sets and never wanted to leave.

Other actors he worked with and was friends with say that Wilder always surprised them during takes with unique acting choices — and he was very kind and a mentor to them. I really like that director Ron Frank uses Wilder’s audio narration from his autobiography. This enhances the experience. He was inspired by Charlie Chaplin and shares how he was in a lot of ‘meant to be’ situations — in the right room, with the right people, at the right time, with the right role.

There are plenty of pleasant moments in “Remembering Gene Wilder”, but also some serious ones. One of the focal moments is when a doctor told a young Wilder that he should never argue with his mom or it could kill her (because of her medical conditions). That stuck with him for the rest of his life and inspired him to want to be funny.

One missed opportunity in the doc: there’s a soundbite early on in which Wilder describes how unhappy he was that “Willy Wonka” was a flop when it was released in 1971. Frank should’ve come back to that later on in “Remembering Gene Wilder”, as the popularity of that movie and character grew exponentially in the decades since, becoming Wilder’s most beloved role.

But overall, this is a nice documentary — not the most dimensional in terms of filmmaking or emotional impact — but absolutely satisfying for his fans and lovers of the entertainment industry. Gene Wilder brought millions joy, through a life and career worth remembering.

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LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic

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