Sunday, December 24, 2023


The attempt to tell the origin story for Roald Dahl's famous eccentric chocolatier is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand we get Timothée Chalamet as the still naive young man seeking his fortune creating chocolate for the world to enjoy which provides the heart of the film. There's enough here that we can see the possibility of this version of Willy Wonka growing into the far more gruff character we see played by Gene Wilder. On the other hand we're left with a script that turns out to have little to do with chocolate and more to do with crazy antics, involving bumbling bad guys, really only suited for small children.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory works so well because it has something for both kids and adults. There's little for adults this time around, however. Wonka is a kiddie film. It's a fine kiddie film, with some wonderous special effects and set design reminding you of the 1971 film, but it never attempts to be anything more. And for a film about the wonders of chocolate, few of Willy Wonka's creations look editable, let alone delicious.

Despite being an origin story, Wonka doesn't get into why Willy Wonka is such a revolutionary chocolatier. He collects ingredients from all over the world which have unique effects on those who imbue his concoctions, but what made him collect these specific things and what makes him put these specific combinations together? Wonka provides a tale of an exceeding naive young man with tremendous talent showcasing that to the world but other than the loss of his mother (Sally Hawkins), who passed on her love for chocolate, we see little of what drives him and fuels his famous imagination.

What the film does offer is Willy Wonka getting shanghaied by unscrupulous inn keeper Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman) and denied access to selling his chocolate by the three established chocolatiers (Paterson Joseph, Mathew Baynton, and Matt Lucas) who have a stranglehold on the market and the police. While forced to work in Mrs. Scrubitt's laundry, Willy Wonka will meet others she has swindled including the young Noodle (Calah Lane) who well help Willy escape the daily toils of the laundry and begin a guerilla campaign to sell his wares around town. This will provide humorous misadventures, including the most memorable involving a giraffe.

We also get the introduction of a single Oompa Loompa (Hugh Grant) who feels thrown in solely to provide another obstacle for our protagonist, provide the only real example of Willy Wonka's travels on-screen, offer another tie-in to the classic film by providing some Oompa Loompa songs, and act as a bit of a deus ex machina in the final act.

Other than its lead performance and the look of the film, there's not much here. The script by Simon Farnaby and director Paul King more than once compares Willy Wonka to a magician, and this script is very much smoke and mirrors with little of substance underneath. That said, what we're given is done well enough it may still provide some momentary distraction for the right audience.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Wonka
  • IMDb: link

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