Wonka pleasantly proves to be one of the most enjoyable films of the year, filled with lovely original music and some truly wonderful and touching performances. I’ll be the first to admit how hesitant I was towards a Willy Wonka prequel, especially in the film landscape that exist today and the number of cash grabs Hollywood chases year after year. Nothing will ever compare to Gene Wilder and what he brought to the character, but I’m happy to say how surprised I was with the job Timothee Chalamet did and just how fitting the film’s themes compared to the original.
Young Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) has made his way to the big city in hopes of sharing his magnificent chocolates with as many people as possible! Once there, he finds it increasingly difficult to sell chocolate as Slughworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Matthew Baynton) run the big chocolate factories and keep the Police Chief (Keegan Michael Key) paid off to keep competition out. With the help of the young orphan Noodle (Calah Lane) and a merry band of misfits, Willy must help the city and achieve his dream of becoming the world’s greatest chocolatier!
Directed and co-written by Paul King, Wonka finds many similar beats to King’s marvelous works on Paddington and Paddington 2, bringing an overwhelmingly charming air to the whole film. Much like the joyful and aloof bear from the Paddington films, Willy Wonka as a character is so delightfully goofy and playful in a way that never becomes childish. Balancing outright silly humor with some sneaky adult jokes, Wonka has a lot to offer audiences of all ages. More than that, fans of the original film will feel especially warm towards Chalamet as his younger Wonka feels exactly like what we imagined a bright-eyed Gene Wilder’s younger Wonka would be like.
Timothee Chalamet continues to prove himself as one of the more versatile young actors in Hollywood, this time embracing the world of song and dance and doing a pretty great job with it. The musical numbers are breezy and entertaining, never feeling too much like a Broadway musical but enhancing the story along the way. Chalamet’s bubbly Wonka is a delight to watch as he shows off his many strange chocolates, but it’s his tenderness in his scenes with Calah Lane that truly round out this film and make it as strong as it is.
Wonka is fantastic time to be had by all and comes at a perfect time in the holiday season to entertain all audiences and leave them with a message of love for others. I shouldn’t have doubted Paul King after he made me a Paddington Bear fan a million times over and I hope that many with my similar hesitations towards this film go see it anyways and leave with a big smile on their faces. In a world with subpar prequels and sequels, Wonka is truly something special that is more than worth the price of admission.
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