With a huge amount of promotion, Wonka intends to make the most of being the biggest release of the festive season. Audiences may justifiably wonder why we need to see the origin story of Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier, and if Timothee Chalamet can live up to the standard set by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp in previous adaptations?
The film is a huge shift from his role in the Dune films, Chalamet takes the lead as a young Willy Wonka, determined to make his way as a chocolate maker despite the industry being controlled by a ruthless cartel. Tricked into a exhausting job at a laundry, he teams up with orphan Noodle (Calah Lane) to plan to create more and more outlandish chocolates and become the famous name he was destined to be.
Having made two genuine masterpieces with the Paddington films, director Paul King is the perfect person to bring this story to life. It’s a fully-fledged musical, despite the early trailers featuring no singing, and the filmmaker leans into the big-hearted spectacle of it.
Aiming for the tone of the 1971 Gene Wilder film rather than the Tim Burton remake, you see both the best and worst of the movie through comparison. King and the cast achieve the same warm, dreamy feeling associated with the original film (even beginning with a version of Pure Imagination), and that’s something that should be applauded. The world in which he inhabits is perhaps missing the grit of Dahl’s original stories but loses none of the wonder.
On the downside, particularly in the music, there’s a feeling of imitation that isn’t the most flattering. There’s a feeling that certain moments are hoping to be a remix of what’s gone in the past, whereas the
biggest laughs and cheers come from the fresher moments.
With wide eyes and a very tall hat, Chalamet once again proves himself to be the most versatile star of his generation. He perfectly captures the showmanship and enthusiasm you associate with Wonka, as well as an endearing quality that makes his journey all the more involving.
He’s surrounded by an excellent ensemble who all have their moments to shine. The cartel, made up of comedy actors Patterson Joseph, Matthew Boynton, and Matt Lucas, are a delightful trio of family-friendly villains, while Lane is a sweet accomplice to Chalamet’s whimsy.
Hugh Grant steals the show as Lofty, the tallest Oompa-Loompa. As with his previous show-stopping turns as the villain of Paddington 2 and Dungeons & Dragons, he turns up his pomposity to hilarious effect. The only complaint is that he isn’t as big a part of the story as he should be.
Wonka is a delightful family adventure that takes a story that seemingly didn’t need to be told and makes it seem important. A delicious confection that lives up to its famous past.
Wonka is in cinemas from 8 December