“Wonka” is a bizarre and wondrous origin story of a fantastical chocolatier

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has captured the hearts of many since its release in 1971. Starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the film follows five children as they receive golden tickets in their chocolate bars and win a trip to visit Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Then fans’ hearts were captured again in 2005 with the release of “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”, a darker take on the novel by Roald Dahl starring Johnny Depp as Wonka. This version, directed by Tim Burton, resulted in controversy with people not liking the more grim adaptation of a once lighthearted tale.

Now, in 2023, director Paul King has attempted a new spin on the tale, deciding to focus on Willy Wonka’s origin story. “Wonka” stars current acting icon, Timothée Chalamet, alongside familiar faces like Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson, Keegan Michael-Key and Sally Hawkins. Since its announcement, people were hopeful that this prequel wouldn’t be a disappointment.  

Mindset is a very important thing to preface when talking about “Wonka”. It’s crucial to note that it is a children’s movie. It’s bizarre, silly, ridiculous and unbelievable — but that’s what makes it fun. The uniqueness of Willy Wonka is that he could make the impossible possible, and going into “Wonka” with a fun and childlike attitude is key to truly enjoying this film.

The film opens with a musical number that sets the scene for the whole film. A young Willy Wonka steps off a boat singing about his dreams of opening a chocolate shop. Wonka quickly finds himself low on funds and takes up an offer from a stranger for a place to sleep. Little does he know, he’s fallen into a trap.

On top of all that, the three top chocolatier’s in the town — including Slugworth (Paterson Joseph) — are hell-bent on stopping Wonka from selling his eccentric and never before seen chocolate creations.

With the help of his newfound friends, including an orphan named Noodle (Calah Lane), Wonka is able to sneakily sell his chocolates and attempt to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a famous chocolate maker.

The plot of “Wonka” is full of goofy twists and turns, unrealistic events and extravagant characters. It truly reflects the essence of the Roald Dahl novel in the best ways possible. 

The first thing that surprised me about the film was Timothée Chalamet’s singing. Interviews stated that Chalamet didn’t have to audition for “Wonka”, because the director had already seen a high school rap performance of Chalamet’s that had been posted on YouTube. So naturally I was skeptical about the quality of his voice.

Chalamet has had vocal performances on Saturday Night Live, but nothing close to acting in a musical. However, when Chalamet started to sing “A Hatful of Dreams”, I knew I was in for a treat. Chalamet’s voice was perfect for this role.

The more songs that played, the fonder I grew of the film. The silly choreography and fun lyrics kept a smile plastered on my face for pretty much the entirety of the film. Musical numbers like “Scrub Scrub”, “You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This (Hoverchocs)” and “Sweet Tooth” had both adults and little kids dancing in their seats.

Although “Wonka” is targeted towards children, it can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults as well. Screenwriters stuffed in lots of adult humor, along with some intellectual quips that may go over little ones’ heads, but are sure to have adults giggling.

After the release of the “Wonka” trailer, some internet users were questioning the director’s choice to cast Chalamet, claiming he didn’t have the right amount of dynamism to play a character as whimsical as Wonka. And for a moment, I agreed with them.

Chalamet is arguably one of the brightest actors in the industry today, but he is typically cast in very serious roles. My favorite films of his include, “Beautiful Boy”, “Call Me By Your Name”, “Bones and All” and “Little Women”. Despite his undoubtable talent, none of his previous roles have had an ounce of the pizzazz it takes to play a character like Willy Wonka.

But within the first 10 minutes of the film, I was fully convinced. Chalamet was Wonka. And the internet users who doubted his performance seem to have been convinced as well. As of Dec. 16, “Wonka” has an audience score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes

Every actor in “Wonka” fully understood their role. Every character had the right amount of quirks, the right accents and the right mannerisms. You name it — they did it, and they did it excellently. 

The costume department dressed every character in an absurd outfit that perfectly matched their role. Chalamet himself sports Wonka’s iconic maroon velvet coat and top hat, a mixture of both Depp’s and Wilder’s costumes. 

Every aspect of this movie achieves expectations. From pacing, to the script, acting, costume design and music. On top of it all, Chalamet has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).

“Wonka” was a surprisingly good time, and a film that is sure to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

So open yourself to the childlike wonder you may be missing, get a nice bar of chocolate and head to the theaters to see “Wonka”.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sharon

    Nice review!! I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

  2. Dry

    Good review. I’ll definitely go see this. I’m a Willy Wonka fan big time!!

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