Directed By Paul King

Starring – Timothee Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Keegan-Michael Key

The Plot – Based on the extraordinary character at the center of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, “Wonka” tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka (Chalamet) we know today.

Rated PG for some violence, mild adult language and thematic elements.

WONKA | Official Trailer (youtube.com)


As the third cinematic reincarnation of Roald Dahl’s popular literary character, King and fellow “Paddington 2” screenwriter Simon Farnaby have wiped the slate clean and started anew, with past expectations, conjuring an origin story and fresh taste in tonal approach and direction for the world-building that makes the most of the material and its mundane situations for the characters. Like “Paddington 2”, the film is dominated by its sweetly syrupy kind of over-the-top humor, where strange and inventive expressionisms thrives in the odd and fantastical approaches to Wonka’s chocolate-making madness, while eventually giving way to a poignant underlining of sincerity that produces an element of dramatic heft for the character’s mysterious origins. Even beyond that, the dynamic in relationship between Wonka and an imprisoned orphan named Noodle felt like the most carefully defined arc of the entire film, with each representing the hope from what the other is missing, without a shred of meandering predictability that makes it easy to understand where their direction is headed. Because of such, the film finds comfort in its off-beat brand of English humor, producing a consistency of effectiveness for gags that continuously maintains emphasis in the wacky and wild attributes of this imaginative underworld, all the while responsibly breaking for those tense moments of reflection that not only conjure something integrally endearing about the character, but also a meaningful message that serves youthful audiences accordingly. While much is tonally and creatively diverse about “Wonka” from its predecessors, the musical emphasis still remains true, this time with several numbers that still balance creativity and addictive emphasis accordingly. While the film does dive into past favorites like “Oompa-Loompa” or “Pure Imagination”, the new selections featuring “A World of Your Own” or “Sorry Noodle” from Joby Talbot and Neil Hannon are my favorites, with radiance of personality and lyrical uniqueness that craft a lot of staying power for the work of this dynamic duo. The film is also deeply benefited by its exceptional ensemble, primarily Chalamet, Michael-Key and national treasure Olivia Colman, who are having a blast in the silly surrealness of this story. Chalamet’s Wonka feels different from anything Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp did previously, tapping into the adventurously eager side of Willy that shows an ambitious entrepreneur before the business morally exhausted him, and Michael-Key and Colman conjuring two bigger than life characters who feel lifted from one of Dahl’s novels, with greedy and grimy aspects of corruption making up the energetic approaches to their respective personalities that are downright magnetic, despite their imbalance of moral plausibilities plaguing their designs.


What ultimately plagues “Wonka” from taking home the silver medal in comparison to its 1971 and 2005 efforts, is a series of underwhelming instances that wipe some of the essence in familiarity far from the franchise. For originality, this is fine, but for continuity and consistency among its literary novels, it leaves more to be desired, primarily with the movie’s horrendous visuals, which rely too heavily on unimpressive computer-generation to bring to life this world of wonder and astonishment. It’s understandable enough that England is utilized as this blandly unappealing world by Great Depression standards, but considering the sequences inside of Wonka’s workshop are no more vibrant or tangible with how they’re achieved, it emits a lot of the imaginative essence of this being a kids movie, first and foremost, in turn feeling like a cheaply uninspired immitator, instead of a slice of life from this richly dreamy and sugar coated paradise, which never feels appropriately defined enough to reach out and touch. In addition, the strangely titled “Wonka” rarely feels like a movie centering around in him, leaving much to be desired in a promised exploration in backstory of the character that was featured candidly throughout the movie’s marketing. While Wonka is definitely the movie’s central protagonist as he builds his business, I can’t in good conscience say that I learned anything freshly groundbreaking or defining about the character, which wastes away the prequel framing device while obscuring some of the necessity of even making this a prequel in the first place. Finally, I found the film’s entertainment value to lack consistency between its two halves, leaving the inferior second drained by rushed execution in too many ensuing subplots that assembled during the first. Because this script involves so many characters and corresponding subplots, the nearly two hour run time feels obligated towards answering all of them in ways that rely on a bit too many conveniences, in turn leading to an overstuffed climactic third act that doesn’t know where to properly end the movie on the most triumphant of notes.

“Wonka” isn’t quite the deep-dive of prequel explorations that we were initially promised, but it is a sweetly satisfying spin of fantastical imagination, commanded by the world’s grandest candy maker. With an energetically rich and commanding ensemble, situationally creative musical numbers and a fine balance between humor and heart, Paul King and Simon Farnaby pave their own path to prestigious prominence, churning out a taste that doesn’t require familiarity to live up to its iconic name.

My Grade: 7/10 or B-

2 thoughts on “Wonka

  1. As a general film, this sounds fun. As a film that’s a part of lore, this aounds frustrating. From a lack of focal energy on Willy Wonka and a lack of connection or inspiration for the films to follow, this sounds disappointing to me. But I trust your overall appreciation for what it accomplished. Great review, as always.

  2. I will be seeing this one tomorrow, but I wanted to get a peak at what to expect and I’m happy to hear that it’s actually pretty solid. As someone that was skeptical about the film when it was announced and even with the trailers, I’m glad that King is able to show that he can take a family film and imbue it with so much whimsy and charm. The inconsistency in the quality of the entertainment with the second half is a little concerning, but I can at least say I’m looking forward to watching it. Fantastic review!

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