December 8, 2023 / Warner Bros. Pictures Canada
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Tom Davis, Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant
Directed By: Paul King
Inspired by his mother (Sally Hawkins), who made him his first chocolate bar, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) arrives in a beautiful city where chocolate is a favorite amongst the locals. So much so, that there are three other chocolate makers with shops in the town square. Willy introduces his magical chocolates to the public, only to find out he needs a license to sell them, and has his money confiscated by a corrupt policeman (Keegan-Michael Key).
That leaves him no money to pay for his room, so he's forced to work for the landlady, Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman). He meets several other people who found themselves in the same situation. Along with an orphan named Noodle (Calah Lane), Willy escapes in order to get the ingredients he needs to continue making his magical chocolate. However, he catches the attention of the Chocolate Cartel who see him as a threat. Despite this, Willy is given the chance to change the lives of those around him and live his dream, pushing him to try harder.
Written By Darren
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Wonka is an invitation to pure imagination as Paul King delivers a whimsically magnificent film that explores how Willy Wonka got his famous chocolate factory, full of laughter, heart, joy and music that is brought to life by a wonderful performance from Timothée Chalamet!
Many Roald Dahl stories have been brought to life in cinema, but one story of his has connected with audiences more so than the rest: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Not only did it lead to the timeless film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with an unforgettable performance by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, it launched a candy company in the fictional character’s name, and even earned a remake starring Johnny Depp. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Warner Brothers wanted to revisit the character and bring him back to the big screen for audiences, and with the man behind the critically acclaimed Paddington film at the helm of Willy Wonka’s latest big screen outing, it is everything that audiences will dream of and more. Paul King explores Willy Wonka’s origins, which were briefly discussed in Dahl’s original novel and expanded upon in the 2005 remake, finding the perfect story to be told if there were ever an origin story for Willy Wonka needed, while the charisma and talents of Timothée Chalamet adds true magic to the film and makes it the must see movie event for families this holiday season.
After exploring the world for seven years, a young and poor Willy Wonka moves to a city famous for its chocolate in hopes of fulfilling his dream of opening his own chocolate shop. His chocolates capture the wonder of the public, but the chocolate cartel that runs the city sees Wonka as a threat and makes it their mission to run Wonka out of town at all costs to keep their monopoly on the chocolate market. With the help of new friends, Willy will use his cunning mind and imagination to fulfill his dream and outsmart the chocolate cartel.
Giraffes, chocolate cartels and five hundred chocoholic monks, oh my! King’s story plays with many ideas throughout his origin tale for Willy Wonka, setting him on the path to become the famous chocolatier that the world knows him as. At the heart of the screenplay is Willy Wonka’s dream to make the best chocolate in the world that is born out of his relationship to his late mother, but the adventure is born out of a deadly grasp for control by the local chocolatiers that Willy Wonka threatens with his unique chocolates. King weaves in chocolate cartels, a fun heist subplot that involves zoo animals and chocoholic monks led by the always hilarious Rowan Atkinson, and sinister villains praying on the poverty of others with the subplot involving Mrs. Scrubbit and Bleacher, with many references to the novel and the 1971 film, but he never loses sight of the wonder and amazement of Willy Wonka’s imagination. It’s an exercise in dreaming, but King and his co-screenwriter Simon Farnaby never for a second let the many subplots outshine Willy Wonka’s emotional character arc over the film, creating the only origin story for this iconic character if one ever needs to exist.
Filling the shoes of Wilder’s iconic performance as Willy Wonka is a daunting task, as it is a performance that audiences have adored for decades, but Chalamet finds the perfect balance in paying homage to Wilder’s iteration of the character and adding his own flair to Willy Wonka. Throughout his performance, Chalamet finds the mischievous, visionary energy that Wilder brought to the role, which brings the film to life. Whether it be the musical numbers, where Chalamet impresses with his dancing skills and decent singing voice that leans more into the whimsical comedy of the character, which works to Chalamet’s benefit as he is not the strongest singer; or the moments where he daydreams of being a world famous chocolatier, Chalamet harkens to Wilder’s performance at every turn. But, Chalamet lifts the curtain and lets us see the man behind the razzle dazzle, creating an emotional core to Willy Wonka that audiences have not seen before. Chalamet lets the audience discover the inspiration behind Willy Wonka’s grand dreams, instantly sweeping the audience away with his genuine heart and desires that makes this interpretation of this iconic character the most nuanced we have seen to date. While Willy Wonka is not the famous chocolatier by the end of this film, Chalamet leaves the character in a place where it is not a stretch in anyone’s imagination to see him becoming the Willy Wonka that Wilder portrays at a later stage in life in no matter of time. Once again, Chalamet has proven himself a true talent that will not only bolster his already strong resume of performances, but leaves audiences with another character of his to fall in love with.
Chalamet is the standout of the film, but the supporting cast is just as endearing as him. Calah Lane is sweet as Noodle, bringing a sweetness and caring to the film every second she is on screen. Olivia Colman and Tom Davis are deliciously sinister as Mrs. Scrubbit and Bleacher, the Thénardies-esque crooks that Willy Wonka finds himself indebted to, bringing a goofy energy that leads to some memorable laughs. While prominent in the advertising, Hugh Grant’s role as an Oompa-Loompa is limited, but he steals the film while on screen with his dry British cynicism and sass, while perfectly recreating the iconic Oompa-Loompa dance. In a matter of mere minutes, Sally Hawkins gives a beautiful performance that helps create the beating heart of King’s story, that with very few lines creates a performance that helps define the tone of the film and Willy Wonka’s character arc. The rest of the cast is just as great, with Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Jim Carter, Natasha Rothwell, Rowan Atkinson, Rich Fulcher, and Rakhee Thakrar rounding out the excellent ensemble.
With Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, audiences were introduced to two unforgettable songs: “Pure Imagination” and “The Oompa-Loompa Song”. Both songs have become part of cinematic history, each appearing in this film and heavily influencing Joby Talbot’s sweet and endearing musical score for the film, and King and musician Neil Hannon have conjured up their own original songs for this film. Each song captures the infectious spirit of the film, delivering sugar coated dancing and singing that is sprinkled with pure happiness throughout. The lyrics for the chocolate based songs are reminiscent of Dahl’s prose, capturing a zany and wondrous story to be told with each song, while the more character driven songs do a great job of developing Willy Wonka’s arc over the course of the film. Easily, the standouts of the new songs are “You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This” and “A World of Your Own”, while Grant’s iteration of the iconic “Oompa Loompa” song is tons of fun. But, like the original film, it is Chalamet’s performance of “Pure Imagination” that will stick with you long after the film finishes as it is used masterfully in the film, creating an emotional, awe inspiring sequence that brilliantly captures the magic of Willy Wonka’s dream.
Helping to bring to life this vision of pure imagination is wonderful artistic design to the film. The costumes are outstanding, while the practical sets bring to capture the grandeur and wonder of the world of the film, breathing magic into every frame of the film. With the fantastical elements of the story, there is a fair amount of CGI that despite some moments that feel not-natural, for the most part the CGI seamlessly blends with the physical elements of the world. It truly is imaginative production design at every turn.
So come with Timothée Chalamet, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination with the hit family film of the holiday season: Wonka. In a blockbuster landscape full of superheroes and franchises, revisiting old intellectual property is common place, but what Paul King has done with Wonka impeccably captures the heart and wonder that has made Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory a timeless classic for all generations, that many other remakes and prequels strive to obtain but often miss the mark on. Wonka gives audiences a true golden ticket as audiences are whisked away on a fantastical adventure thanks to the imagination of Paul King that is bursting with catchy musical numbers, incredible world building, and a truly marvelous performance by Timothée Chalamet that captures the spirit of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka with a wink and smile, reminding audiences of the power of dreams in one magical cinematic experience!