Though spirited and endlessly charming, Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka isn’t the macabre chocolatier the world remembers the character as.
A young Willy Wonka arrives in a port city with big aspirations of opening his dream chocolate shop, but quickly discovers there are many unspeakable secrets about the chocolate trade! Within hours, he is also duped of all his coins and indentured by the dastard Mrs. Scrubbit. Would the optimistic inventor and amateur magician be able to fulfil his dreams of becoming the city’s top chocolatier?
Wonka is one of the movies I most looked forward to this year; I was deeply charmed by what I saw in the trailer. Watched it on Monday and yup, it didn’t disappoint. Actually, I enjoyed it so much, I’d consider it one of the most entertaining shows I’ve watched in 2023.
Paul King’s Dahl-inspired prequel is such a beautifully crafted, indulgently fun movie, you see. Watching it is like exploring a huge candy store, where every corner and every shelf is designed to delight and fascinate.
The cast clearly relished the opportunities to be at their kookiest too. For some viewers, I suppose many of the zaniest bits would stray too much into slapstick but hey, we’re talking about a movie with chocolates that make you fly and “Yeti’s sweat” that helps you grow blue hair. Isn’t abundant outlandishness to be expected?
So yup, I deeply enjoyed Wonka. The moment I left the cinema, I decided I would rate it 5 out of five stars.
While making this decision, I was not blind to the fact that significant groups of audiences would strongly disagree with me; especially, those who love the source material. Though not a big fan of Roald Dahl’s stories or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I’m quite aware that Wonka is not a faithful “spiritual prequel,” as the promoters have been describing it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that some hardcore Dahl fans would consider it a misinterpretation.
The show is just too optimistic and saccharinely sweet, you see, almost completely lacking the sort of dark undertones Dahl’s stories are famous/notorious for. As charming and as endearing as Timothée Chalamet’s depiction is, his infinitely benevolent Willy Wonka also doesn’t “gel” with the unforgiving, brutally judgemental Wonka that we’ve encountered in earlier movies or the book itself. At best, one can only say Chalamet’s version is a very young Wonka who will continue to be disappointed by a greedy world before becoming the manipulative mastermind he is in Chocolate Factory.
These differences will surely disappoint certain circles. To be honest, I was mildly disappointed myself. I was only inclined to forgive the changes because Chalemet’s Wonka was ultimately so, for the lack of a better word, lovable? The sort of generous, ingenious, wacky friend most people would love to have?
So, ahem, allow me to rephrase and qualify. I deeply enjoyed Wonka but only because I decided to embrace it as an independent story inspired by Dahl’s most famous work. Midway through the show, I also stopped wishing for darker moments and a scarier Willy Wonka.
If you can’t do as I did, well, I think you might still enjoy the movie—it is spirited, beautiful, and with many Disney-perfect song-and-dance sequences. But chances are, you wouldn’t find it great, let alone awesome.
Summary: This spiritual prequel is better regarded as an energetic reimagination.
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