REVIEW: ‘Wonka’ a musical, fun film for the family

This past Christmas, moviegoers and candy fanatics were gifted with yet another adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in the form of “Wonka.” Directed by Paul King, the story deviates from the book and previous two adaptations by focusing more on the titular character’s backstory, with a musical twist. 

Released on Dec. 15, 2023, the film stars the young and charismatic Timothée Chalamet as the up-and-coming, enthusiastic chocolatier. Chalamet’s popularity as an actor no doubt played a part in him being cast, and I was wary of how he would embody Wonka’s curious peculiarities, doubting that he could live up to Johnny Depp’s or Gene Wilder’s interpretations of the character. 

However, Chalamet’s Wonka provides audiences with a fresh new take on the timeless character. He draws attention to Wonka’s charisma, wonder and desire to inspire, providing audiences with the origins of some of the quirks that we recognize in those adaptations that take place later in the candymakers career. Chalamet exquisitely places focus on Wonka’s naivete and trust in the world, despite the character’s numerous pitfalls with some competitive confectionary curmudgeons. 

Upon Wonka’s arrival in the fictional city that resembles London, Paris and Prague, he is quickly tricked by a local ruffian innkeeper Mrs. Scubitt (Olivia Colman) and her buffoonish muscle Bleacher (Tom Davis) and pressed into servitude to pay off arbitrary debts. He meets some fellow gullible mates whom he befriends and bonds with. Noodle (Calah Lane) quickly becomes his closest compatriot and the two develop a close friendship throughout the film. 

Wonka doesn’t let his captivity prevent him from sharing his talent for delectable creation with the world. With the help of his newfound band of misfits, he frequently escapes to sell his fantastic chocolate creations in the streets, always nearly escaping the efforts of the three main villains to stop them. 

The villains, Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton) and Prodnose (Matt Lucas), are hilariously vile and horrendously comedic. They stop at nothing to drive the new competition away and their villainous tactics include hiding a vast chocolate vat underneath a church, allowed by Fr. Julius (Rowan Atkinson, famous for playing Mr. Bean) and bribing the police chief, played by Detroit Mercy’s own Keegan-Michael Key, with as much chocolate as he can eat (and then some) until the chief is comically overweight, leading to several instances of physical humor. 

However, these three candy conspirators are not the only opposing force in Wonka’s journey. A stealthy Oompa Loompa (Hugh Grant) occasionally steals his prized chocolate, setting the groundwork in the plot for that peculiar partnership with the odd inhabitants of Loompa land. 

The movie is filled to the brim with humor, heart and most notably music. The greatest derivation from previous adaptations is that King’s “Wonka” is a musical film. The presence of large ensemble numbers, somber duets and boisterous melodies is the finest ingredient in creating a fantastical world in which the characters exist. 

Wonka’s dreams of sharing his talent with the world inspire in every audience member a joyful desire to rise to the challenge of societal impositions and give what they can in changing the world into a more pleasant place. “Wonka” is a delightfully sweet take on the story of a beloved chocolatier and is more than moderately entertaining for young and old audiences alike. You can buy or rent it digitally from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV and Vudu.