Wonka Review


Wonka is the latest film adaptation to take inspiration from the Roald Dahl novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This version follows a different route, bringing us the origin story of how Willy Wonka becomes a chocolatier, a story that while sweet, is maybe a little too sickly and overbearing.

Starring Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka, we see Wonka arrive in Europe as an aspiring chocolatier and magician, determined to open his own shop in the exclusive Galeries Gourmet. After losing all of his money within hours of arriving, the innocent Wonka is coerced into staying in the decidedly dodgy boarding house owned by Mrs Scrubitt (Olivia Coleman) and her henchman Bleacher (Tom Davis). After signing a contract with questionable small print, Wonka heads to the Galeries to sell chocolates to pay for his board. Unfortunately, he falls foul of three rival chocolatiers who form part of a chocolate cartel – Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton) and Prodnose (Matt Lucas) – who call the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) to arrest him.

Wonka Review

Unable to pay his exorbitant boarding fees, Wonka is captured by Mrs Scrubitt and Bleacher and put to work in her washhouse alongside several other captives who have fallen foul of the same scheme. Among them is Noodle (Calah Lane), a young orphan who becomes fast friends with Wonka and helps him escape the washhouse to sell chocolates and earn money to pay off their debts. However after Wonka’s chocolates prove a hit with the locals, the chocolate cartel are soon bribing the Chief of Police to ensure Wonka is run out of town if caught selling chocolates illegally. With help from his washhouse friends, Wonka manages to evade the law, however, his chocolate-making is scuppered by a sneaky thief, a little orange man (Hugh Grant) who has been following Wonka for years. And it isn’t long before the cartel begins to resort to drastic measures to ruin Wonka’s business.

Wonka Review

The most surprising thing about Wonka is that it’s a musical. The trailers managed to keep this well under wraps, so I was a little shocked when the film opened with a musical number, and to be honest a little annoyed too. I used to be a fan of musicals but not really anymore, so I didn’t go into this expecting a musical and if I’d known it was one, I may have thought twice about watching it. Despite my frustrations, the songs weren’t bad but neither were they particularly memorable or catchy. The only ones that stood out were those from the original 1971 film and were very well done. 

Wonka Review

The cast is by far the standout in this film, it’s a virtual who’s who of British comedians and it was rather enjoyable to see the likes of Phil Wang and pretty much the entire cast of Ghosts pop up unexpectedly. The star however is Timothée Chalamet, who brings an incredible amount of boyish charm and innocence to the character of Willy, making him very watchable and likable. He pulls off the singing and dancing with aplomb, and he’s really what makes this film watchable. Hugh Grant is also an absolute hoot as an Oompa Loompa. While I question the CGI, it doesn’t matter too much as every scene with Grant in is so much fun and it’s a shame that he isn’t around more.

However, the main issue with Wonka is that it was far too sickly sweet and the general nice, innocent, sweetness of it all started to get on my nerves after a while. Chalamet plays Wonka very well, the film as a whole looks incredibly good and there are some rather fun silly moments – Keegan-Michael Key’s Chief of Police’s addiction to chocolate gradually making him fatter is one – but everything else is just too sweet. Bearing in mind that Roald Dahl’s books were not exactly sweetness and light and often had some mean and snarky moments, having Wonka as a completely innocent, naive chocolatier seems like a bit of a misstep. Having something a little closer to Gene Wilder’s portrayal would probably have been a better idea. 

Wonka isn’t a bad film, it just wasn’t a film for me. Despite the general look and fantastic cast, I just couldn’t get my head around the overall sweetness and musical aspects.

Where to Watch

Wonka | December 8, 2023 (United Kingdom) 7.3


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