Wonka Movie Review: Paul King's Wonka acts as a prequel to the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starring the great Gene Wilder, and its 2005 remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, featuring Johnny Depp, both based on Roald Dahl's novel. Serving as an origin story for the chocolate-maker, or rather how he came to build his chocolate business, Wonka has the fantastically talented Timothee Chalamet in the lead, with the makers hoping his charms would work its Christmas magic on the audience. To some extent, it does, even if the writing often plays the Grinch in the party. Wonka Review: Timotheé Chalamet, High Grant and Paul Kings Film Gets a Thumbs Up From Critics Who Calls It 'Sweet Musical Treat' and ‘Perfect Holiday Classic’.
Willy Wonka (Chalamet) comes to the town with dreamy aspirations and the marvelous ability to concoct magically delectable chocolates. But Wonka's naivete and his illiteracy often hamper his ambitions. First he gets trapped into servitude by a grouch innkeeper Mrs Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) and her lug-headed right-hand man Bleacher (Tom Davis). Then he angers the trio of existing chocolate retailers in the town, led by Arthur Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), who sees him as a threat to their business monopoly and uses the corrupt Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) to drive him away. How Wonka tackles these threats to his chocolate delights with the help of an orphaned teenager Noodle (Calah Lane) and a couple of other trapped souls like him is what the rest of the film is about.
And yeah, there is also Hugh Grant as the Oompa-Loompa to whom Wonka owes three jars of chocolates.
Watch the Trailer of Wonka:
With Hollywood's pretty exploitative approach into increasing IPs, trepidation comes when you come to watch 'prequels and sequels' of loved movies and shows. Including Wonka, despite its trailers promising magic and sweetness and a laudable casting of an inform Chalamet, coming right before Christmas. So I was pleasantly surprised when Wonka starts off on a right footing, charming me with its lovely Elizabethan visual appeal, even if some of the setpieces reminded me of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter movies (later in the movie, a particular 'torture' chamber felt borrowed from a similar setpiece in the first Fantastic Beasts film). Still, the film draws you with a magical appeal right from Wonka's musical intro scene where he goes both Gene Kelly and Gene Wilder.
The world that Wonka enters is enticing and inviting, and it did make me feel transported to another era. So kudos to the production design there, which, sadly, also makes the use of CGI to create some decor in a couple of scenes in the third act quite jarring. Timothee Chalamet is an absolute blast and he is clearly having fun with his role. The supporting cast is quite nice, particularly the formidable Olivia Colman as the uncouth barkeeper with some droll one-liners and Paterson Joseph as the main antagonist. The young Calah Lane serves a perfect foil to Wonka's eccentricities. The songs are quite nice and foot-tapping. With Hugh Grant making his much anticipated entry mid-way I was already in there for a jolly good time. Wonka: Paul King Talks About Hugh Grant’s Character in The Film, Says ‘He’s the Funniest and Most Sarcastic S***’.
Unfortunately, it's here where the weak areas began to show in the writing, turning itself into a heist movie that is riddled with convenience tropes, and Wonka struggles to make that smooth transition to its original source. The Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had a sinister quality in him, even if he dealt with chocolates, while the Wonka we meet here feels like an epitome of Xmas goodness with no snarky bone in sight. It sure feels like these are two very different characters, just like what Cruella did with its protagonist (even she did have some grey shades). Hugh Grant's 'orange man with green hair' is treated more like a convenient Chekhov's gun in the plot and certainly deserved more screentime, as do Rowan Atkinson as a deceitful priest.
Wonka is a charming movie, alright, with Timothee Chalamet's delightful performance working wonders. The writing may not always work its magic - this ain't no Chocolat - but you can't absolve yourself of the sweetness of the film's feel-good nature, in its songs and some really funny moments in between.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 07, 2023 06:15 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).