Wonka Review – A Whimsical World of Pure Imagination

Wonka Review FandomWire
Wonka Review FandomWire
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I went into my Wonka viewing experience admittedly prejudiced. Whether it be the poor advertising and subpar trailer, or my belief that the prequel was unnecessary and unwanted, it was a film that I had minimal expectations for. Still — as with any film I watch — I maintained an open mind, willing to give it the fair shot it deserves, and can now admit that I was wrong in my initial assumptions. Wonka satisfied my sweet-tooth with a flurry of whimsy, a dash of toe-tapping musical numbers, and a plentiful scoop of charm.

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Wonka Plot

When a young Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) attempts to open a chocolate shop in a small town, he’s met with resistance from a trio of established chocolatiers, a crooked police chief and more in this musical prequel to Roald Dahl’s beloved novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The Critique

timothee chalamet in wonka
Timothée Chalamet in Wonka

Timothée Chalamet is — arguably — the most prominent young actor in Hollywood in terms of sheer talent and prestigious film roles. While he hasn’t won an Oscar yet, he was nominated for 2017’s Call Me By Your Name, played pivotal roles in Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird and Little Woman, and is leading Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed Dune series, with Dune: Part Two set to release in march of next year. At first glance, Wonka seems an odd pivot for the rising star. Afterall, there’s nothing like the family-friendly musical fantasy in his filmography thus far; however, that’s exactly what makes the move so brilliant.

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Staying true to the “no superhero movies” advice he received from Leonardo DiCaprio, Chalamet proves just how versatile of an actor he is. His charisma and charm ooze onto the screen like the liquified chocolate he peddles. While his wide eyed innocents is — at times — reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s version of the character from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Chalamet brings out a side of the character we have not yet seen. He’s friendly, approachable and sympathetic; a far cry from the man who dismissively allows children to meet gruesome and unpleasant ends on a factory-tour.

Director Paul King, the filmmaker responsible for Paddington and Paddington 2, continues his hot-streak of elevated family entertainment, proving that the magic in his work extends beyond adorably polite bears. The world he creates — although mostly confined to the streets of a small town — feels endless and immersive, and the score from Joby Talbot ensures that the immersion persists from start to finish.

Hugh Grant in Wonka
Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa in Wonka

The film is — as I’ve pointed out several times — a musical. While Chalamet’s singing often feels flat and synthetic, the music and songs themselves are catchy and effectively add to the story by conveying necessary emotional-depth and humor, and moving the plot forward with their delivery. I’ll clarify by saying Chalamet’s singing isn’t actively bad; however, it consistently feels inexperienced. Keep in mind, this critique comes from me, a man who couldn’t carry a tune in a chocolate-box. So, take it for what it’s worth.

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While Chalamet excels in the iconic role, delivering what I argue is the best version of Willy Wonka we’ve ever seen, the supporting cast filled with top-tier talent, including Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Hugh Grant (The Gentleman) and Keegan-Michael Key (The Super Mario Bros. Movie), give stand-out performances, never allowing themselves to slip into the background. Olivia Colman is particularly fantastic, which should come as no surprise since she’s actively amazing in everything she’s in.

In Conclusion

Was Wonka entirely necessary? Probably not, but thank goodness we have it to brighten our holiday-season. It’s an emotional and hilarious adventure filled with pure imagination sure delight children and adults alike. It’s the sweet treat that I didn’t know I wanted, but now that I’ve tasted it, I’m hooked.

8/10

8 Out of 10

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Written by Joshua Ryan

Articles Published: 227

Joshua Ryan is the Creative Coordinator and Head Film & TV Critic for FandomWire. He's a member of the Critics Choice Association and spokesperson for the Critics Association of Central Florida. Joshua is also one of the hosts of the podcast, The Movie Divide.