By Jennifer Nanek
News Film Critic 

Movie Review of "Wonka" : A Sweet Surprise (with a Few Wonky Bits)

 

Last updated 1/9/2024 at 12:22pm

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Wonka stars Timothée Chalametas Wonka.

I'll admit, I walked into the new Wonka movie bracing myself for disappointment. The shadow of Gene Wilder's iconic performance loomed large, and the more recent Johnny Depp version didn't exactly instill confidence. But, much like discovering a golden ticket tucked beneath a wrapper, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this chocolatey adventure.

This movie was directed by Paul King who is known for his recent Paddington Bear movies.

The cast did a good job. Timothée Chalamet brings a youthful exuberance to Willy Wonka, injecting the character with a playful charm that feels distinct from Wilder's eccentric genius. Hugh Grant is a scene-stealer as the Oompah Loompa, delivering his lines with comedic precision.

I was delighted to see Jim Carter, who played Carson on Downton Abbey, in this film. He and some of the other folks that help or thwart Wonka were delightful.

The production design is a mixed bag.

Wonka's factory or shop is a fantastical wonderland, bursting with vibrant colors and whimsical inventions. In the Gene Wilder version I really wanted to eat that chocolate. In this version nothing looked delicious except maybe one of the chocolate trees.

The story itself is a clever prequel, exploring Willy's childhood and the events that led him to create his chocolate empire. It avoids simply retreading the familiar beats of the original film, while still offering enough nods to satisfy fans. The musical numbers are a mixed bag, some catchy and energetic, others forgettable. But even the weaker songs are carried by the sheer joy and enthusiasm of the performances.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

There is a lot of silliness in this movie which I absolutely loved. There is also a lot of subtle pokes at capitalism and authority in general which I also appreciated.

The main message of the film though seemed to be that chocolate is important in our lives and I feel like this is a message we can all get behind.

Overall, Wonka is a delightful surprise. It's not a perfect film, but its charm and heart shine through, thanks to its talented cast and a story that finds its own unique space within the Willy Wonka universe. So, if you're looking for a sweet and whimsical escape, I recommend giving this Wonka a chance. You might just find yourself humming "Pure Imagination" on your way out of the theater.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

 

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