Before any trailer for Wonka was released, it was anticipated that this movie might be a dark adventure exploring the years preceding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Any such thought quickly dissipated when it was announced that Paul King and Simon Farnaby, the team behind the acclaimed Paddington movies, were to be behind the project. Post-trailer, suspicions were that the chocolate adventure was going to be too light and sweet. In fact, what we get is a truly magical experience that King and Farnaby have got just about right.
Timothée Chalamet appears as the third incarnation of the beloved Roald Dahl chocolate maker Willy Wonka, this time in his youth, travelling the world to find the finest ingredients for his creations and aspiring to open his own shop, becoming the greatest chocolatier in the world. But sensing a threat to their business, the chocolate mafia have different ideas and do all they can to bring Wonka down and put him out of business forever.
There is a bit of a resemblance to another Roald Dahl classic, Fantastic Mr Fox, in the plot. Three powerful villains, tycoons of industry, trying to squash a plucky upstater trying to make his way, but this makes the storyline all the more endearing and gives it an authentic Dahl-esque feel. There are chuckles aplenty in this movie, coupled with bright cinematography and a joyful madness running through the plot.
Wonka openly embraces the fact it is a musical, with lots of new numbers unearthing themselves for the audience to enjoy, some thrilling, others not so much, and while Chalamet may not have the strongest singing voice, he makes up for it with charm in abundance. He also gets the opportunity to flash a few Gene Wilder-ish quips and gags, but makes the character unique with his own lovable magnetism and vulnerability. Some will claim he is miscast, but given the style of the script he is working with, he gets the desired tone right.
The supporting cast, including Hugh Grant, Olivia Coleman, Paterson Joseph and Keegan Michael Key, is absolutely superb and worth every second of screen time. King and Farnaby give every character ample time to develop and play their part in this adventure, and although Noodle’s character (Calah Lane) story is a little bit flimsy and summarised a little too simplistically, she makes a nifty addition to the cast with riotous scenes with Chalamet, Coleman and Tom Davis.
Wonka is a sugary delight from start to finish. It would have been nice to see a little more about how Willy recruited his Oopma Loompas and built his chocolate factory, but nonetheless, the movie provides a fun-filled extravaganza that warms your heart. It is twee, perhaps a little too much, and doesn’t come close to the 1971 movie, but this prequel satisfies the tastebuds in more than enough ways.
Wonka is released nationwide on 8th December 2023.
Watch the trailer for Wonka here: