Gene Wilder Documentary Reviews Are All In Agreement

By Jennifer Muscato | Published

young frankenstein

The documentary Remembering Gene Wilder is in theaters now, the reviews are in, and they are good. At the writing of this article, it has a 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with Stephen Silver from Broad Street Review saying, “A hugely enjoyable walk through Wilder’s entire life and career. And who didn’t love Gene Wilder?”

Everyone Loved Gene Wilder

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Everyone. Everyone loved Gene Wilder. And they seem to love his documentary, too. Todd Jorgenson for Cinemalogue writes, “… as funny and moving as you’d expect from a Wilder tribute doc that dutifully honors his legacy.” Joey Magidson of Awards Radar agrees, “Remembering Gene Wilder is a lovely tribute to a legend of the screen.”

Remembering Gene Wilder is comprised of a mix of the late actor’s voice as narration and interviews from those who knew and loved him best. Audiences will hear things they’ve never heard before about Wilder’s life both on and off the screen and Director Ron Frank kicks it off with Wilder’s most widely-known role; Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Wilder’s Wonka Portrayal Was Inititally Criticized

Released in 1971, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was not loved at first, as it is today. Parents thought Wonka (Gene Wilder) was too cruel to the kids in the film. Gene, himself, even mentioned this in his own book. Shockingly, it bombed at the box office, but was revived with home video sales. It was nominated for Best Original Score (including songs like “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man”) at the 44th Academy Awards and Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. It’s hard to believe now that he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

Shouting Out His Mel Brooks Collaborations

Included in Remembering Gene Wilder is Peter Ostrum who played the all-important role of Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Of Wilder, Ostrum says, “You could tell this was going somebody who’s fun to work with. He wasn’t treating me like a kid.”

Gene Wilder received a total of two Oscar nominations in his lifetime. One for Best Supporting Actor for 1969’s The Producers and the other for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material for 1975’s Young Frankenstein. Both of these films mark a couple of Wilder’s collaborations with the legendary Mel Brooks. Michael Clark from the Epoch Times writes of Wilder, “His best work was achieved when he collaborated with others.”

Wilder and Brooks would work together multiple times, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles. At 97-years-old, Brooks is in Remembering Gene Wilder speaking of his late friend, “He’s naive, he’s innocent, he’s sweet, simply and honest, but when he got excited, he was a volcano.”

Remembering Gene Wilder Is Now In Theaters

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Remembering Gene Wilder also includes interviews from friend Alan Alda, co-star Carol Kane (The World’s Greatest Lover) and Rain Pryor, the daughter of the late Richard Pryor. Wilder and Pryor were another famous pairing, like Wilder and Brooks. Wilder and Pryor co-starred in four movies together, including 1989’s See No Evil, Hear No Evil and 1980’s Stir Crazy.

Remembering Gene Wilder is in theaters now and will be available to stream on April 30. Avi Offer of NYC Movie Guru says, “Captivating, insightful and profoundly moving. It captures Wilder’s warmth, charisma, sense of humor, personality, intelligence, and, above all, his humanity.”

One Of The Best Documentaries This Year

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Speaking of his humanity, Gene Wilder carried out his late wife Gilda Radner’s wish that information about her ovarian cancer diagnosis would be used to help other victims, founding organizations that emphasize early diagnosis and support for cancer patients.

Remembering Gene Wilder also touches on Wilder’s own health struggles. Wilder had Alzheimer’s disease. His widow says the first time she was aware her husband was struggling with his memory was when he couldn’t remember the title of Young Frankenstein, one of his most famous films, which she says was his favorite movie.

Gene Wilder died on August 29, 2016, from complications with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years old.

Danielle Solzman from Solzy at the Movies writes, “Remembering Gene Wilder is a documentary that offers laughs and tears and is also one of the best documentaries of the year.”