Film, Reviews
Jan 2, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Wonka’

Timothée Chalamet is back on the big screen in a big classic style musical that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Wonka is here, and the movie’s story is just as sweet as its novel origins.

Image Still: Warner Brothers

Whether you’re full grown, a young adult, a teen, or a little kid Wonka is meant for you. It’s the type of feel good movie thats made for the entire family. All of the actors shine in their characters. We love Roald Dahl, his characters transcend time so when we heard that Warner Brothers were going to do another adaptation we groaned. Oh no! Yet another origin-story prequel, perhaps the worst invention of these I.P.-crazed times. We actually hate all these adaptations, but with Wonka we have to take it back. It wasn’t just good it was excellent. This rare bird of success seems to fuel studios to pump out nothing new, but we digress. The movie was fantastic with a fun soundtrack your kids are probably going to want to sing in the car again and again. And yes, we know the musical theater kids are already squirreling away new audition picks from the soundtrack. It’s solid, and we have to give credit where credit is due.

Gene Wilder gave us a mysterious, wonky, and slightly aloof chocolatier in the 70’s film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It aligned quite well with what author Roald Dahl had written, a world of imagination where chocolate could take any form. Although, you should know the author detested the original (yeah). One reason we believe that Wonka was a warm hearted success was no thanks or should we say all thanks to the film’s director. Wonka comes from the filmmaker Paul King, best known and beloved for his whimsical Paddington films. Wonka is, in fact, a captivating, winsome pleasure, a film decidedly aimed at children that nonetheless incorporates some dark material for any adults in the viewing.

Wonka is set somewhere in the first half the 20th century, in a city that is part London, part Paris, with a dash of Venice for cinematic effect? It’s a whimsical take on turn of the century Europe to be sure. But overall, it doesn’t seem to be comprised of much of a real set with CGI being the main character of the story’s placement in the world. The villains conceal a brutal candy consortium led by Arthur Slugworth (Paterson Joseph) who wants to see Wonka’s wondrous confections made illegal. All the better if he (Wonka) can be done away with altogether (we mean dead). You’ll get the joke if you’ve seen the film, if not we urge you to hurry along before it leaves theaters. Wonka is a musical, featuring a handful of cheery songs written by Neil Hannon. (Plus an old classic, nicely recontextualized.) Timothée Chalamet does a fine job of singing, much like ay musical theater kid. His pipes won’t blow you away, but he does a lovely job holding his own.

Speaking of exploitation: one foundational issue that Wonka must address, existing in the 21st century as it does, is the matter of the Oompa-Loompas, the diminutive race of orange people (with green hair) who seem, in earlier tellings of Wonka lore, to perhaps be enslaved. This version of Willy Wonka certainly does not want to risk framing its sprightly hero as a colonialist monster. And so Wonka must atone for a past theft, prosecuted by a particularly dogged Oompa-Loompa named Lofty (Hugh Grant, impressively maintaining his dignity). Is it enough to satisfy the critics who seem to scent the water at all times for blood? Probably not, but it is a fun origin story. That isn’t an endorsement for a new series about them Warner Brothers. Calm down. You never know what studio execs are reading and lord forbid we were the ear worm. We’d like that idea shut right down. Give us new content while taking a compliment. Head to theaters and catch Wonka before its gone.