NOW IN THEATERS! With Wonka, director/co-writer Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby present a delightful musical exploring the origins of Roald Dahl’s mysterious and beloved chocolatier. As the story begins, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) arrives on a steamer to make his fortune in a small, middle-of-the-continent, unnamed European city. He has come here because it contains the most famous chocolate shops in the world in a beautiful steampunk market called the Galleries Gourmet. It turns out that Willy promised his mother, who died some time ago, to open a chocolate shop. The beautiful and charming Sally Hawkins plays Mama Wonka in Willy’s flashbacks of their time together.
Willy’s dreams, however, are deferred when he arrives in town, as he is quickly scammed into indentured servitude by a scenery-chewing flophouse keeper named Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Coleman) and her oafish henchman, Bleacher (Tom Davis). Willy winds up on eternal laundry duty with other hapless victims and colorful characters, including a young girl named Noodle (Calah Lane). They become fast friends and co-conspirators under the influence of Willy’s irrepressibly sunny disposition and a few musical numbers. What happens then? Well, that’s the film, and he wouldn’t want us to give it away.
“…Willy promised his mother, who died some time ago, to open a chocolate shop.”
We all are (or should be) familiar with Willy Wonka, either from Dahl’s novel or from the classic 1971 film starring Gene Wilder. We’re going to gloss over Johnny Depp’s Wonka characterization. It wasn’t awful, but it doesn’t fit so much into the spectrum between Wilder and Chalamet. So, for the sake of Wonka, what does Chalamet bring to the role? The answer is a fresh-faced innocence with only a hint of the slightly sinister trickster who runs the chocolate factory.
You may know King and Farnaby brought us the Paddington movies. Paddington 2, of course, packs such an emotional gut-punch that it’s name-checked in other films for being an authentic tear-jerker. Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal are both openly weeping at it during The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. King and Farnaby know their way around solid family entertainment that still has enough of an edge to keep adults engaged.
"…give it the new classic status it deserves."