Wonka review – Timothée Chalamet’s mixed bag lacks Roald Dahl pure imagination | Films | Entertainment

December 6, 2023
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Having remade Gene Wilder’s 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp’s 2005 version, Warner Bros has been looking to revitalise their IP.

Tragically a misfire followed a year after reacquiring the Roald Dahl rights in 2016, with the direct-to-video Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The animated film was a remake of the 1971 movie plus (rather randomly) Tom and Jerry, with critics panning the movie and asking why it was even made.

The next project in the pipeline, a Wonka origin story, was announced soon afterwards with fans unsurprisingly wondering the same question.

Yet with the Paddington movies director Paul King and screenwriter Simon Farnaby on board with an incredible cast, could such a blockbuster warrant its existence? The result is something of a mixed bag of sweets.

Set in an indeterminate period of the 20th century, Wonka follows Timothée Chalamet’s younger version of the character arriving in England, having spent years at sea. His dream is to open his very own chocolate shop, but the impoverished entrepreneur faces trouble from his future chocolatier rivals Slugworth, Prodnose and Fickelgruber.

The titular American star bubbles with the bumbling yet infectious positivity of the much-loved character. Opposite him is an incredible cast of British TV sitcom greats from Rowan Atkinson, Olivia Colman, Paterson Joseph and Matt Lucas to Hugh Grant drily playing a CGI Oompa-Loompa to hilarious effect. These characters are very much in the spirit of Dahl’s buffoonish and sometimes monstrous adults, who in this film often end up breaking out into song as, yes, this it’s also a musical.

The numbers are good but forgettable, bar the reprisals of the original film’s Pure Imagination and Oompa-Loompa melody. Meanwhile, the story is somewhat unfocused with too much time spent on sub-plot escapades in a laundrette and zoo, where minds can easily wander. Nevertheless, King and Farnaby’s whimsy and wonder do sparkle and twinkle throughout.

The Paddington team provide some colourful and comic moments reminiscent of Wes Anderson and Lemony Snicket, that will delight families looking for a Boxing Day musical treat. However, the film does at times feel more David Walliams than Roald Dahl, lacking the depth and often incredibly dark themes of the latter writer’s children’s books. Wonka himself, for example, isn’t particularly conflicted and pretty much falls into the category of the perfect protagonist who doesn’t learn anything or need to change.

That said, there is a sweet takeaway message of people over consumerism, which is perfect for Christmas. There’s certainly fun to be had with Wonka and it’s still worth a bite, but don’t expect it to linger with you much beyond the cinema.

Wonka hits UK cinemas on Friday.



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