Wonka: Movie Review

Director Paul King is best known for 2014’s wonderful family film, Paddington and it’s even better 2017 sequel. Now the filmmaker takes on Roald Dahl’s famous candymaker, Willy Wonka in the musical prequel, Wonka.  I grew up loving Mel Stuart’s original film with Gene Wilder in the title role. While many may not feel the same, I found Tim Burton’s 2005 take on the character with Johnny Depp in the top hat to be quite entertaining, though not nearly as memorable. This time around, Timothée Chalamet brings us a much different Wonka that we have seen before.

As Wonka opens, Willy (Chalamet) arrives in Europe in hopes to fulfill his dream of selling chocolate at the popular market and dining area, knows as the Galeries Gourmet. The young chocolatier only had twelve coins in his pocket upon arrival, but those didn’t even last a day. With no money for a room and the freezing temperatures outside, Willy winds up getting hustled by Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Coleman) and her henchman Bleacher (Tom Davis). They trick him into signing a contract in which he now owes them 10,000 coins and he must work in their laundry facility until he pays it off.

Willy makes a deal with a young girl named Noodle (Calah Lane), who is also stuck working for Mrs.Scrubbit. He will help get her a better life, if she sneaks him out with the laundry so he can sell candy. Unfortunately, Willy has to deal with some major problems. There are three powerful candy makers in town, Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton). They operate like an organized crime family and they have no tolerance for another candy maker invading their turf. They even have the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) on their payroll (which he gets paid in chocolate).

Thankfully, Willy has help from the others who are trapped working for Mrs. Scrubbit, including Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter), Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar), Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell) and Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher). The team helps Willy avoid getting caught by the police while out on the street selling candy. However, every time Willy gets a step up, he gets knocked down once again.

While Wonka is a good movie and probably going to be one of the best bets for families to enjoy this holiday season, it isn’t without its’ problems. My biggest complaint would have to be with the easily forgettable musical numbers. Aside from Chalamet giving us a lesser version of Wilder’s Pure Imagination, and Hugh Grant’s fun take on Oompa Loompa, I found it hard to remember a single song within ten minutes after the film ended. admittedly, I did like the laundry room set, Scrub, Scrub number.

I loved Nathan Crowley’s production design, which is easily one of the best things about Wonka. This is a beautiful looking movie, even with all the added CGI. Chalamet may not be the best singer in the film, but he succeeds at giving us a very charismatic Willy Wonka. It is hard not to care about his character and his performance does help bring some extra life. While I can’t say that I was a big fan of Wonka as a whole, I would recommend it for those who are looking to a family day at the movies or just want a little singing in their cinema.

By: Marc Ferman