Every Good Thing In This World Started With A Dream
This is a quick review of the newly released film Wonka. Keep in mind this is but one of the many movies I watch every year, and that whatever initial grade I come up for this film could change for better or worse with time. To better keep up to date with both my thoughts on other movies and if my feelings on this film changed, follow me on Letterboxd.
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Via Letterboxd: Willy Wonk, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time, is proof that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible.
1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite films from the bleak seventies and my number one of its year of release. I’ve grown up with it since it was played for my first grade class after we were read the book (The much less infamous sequel, Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator, was also read to me later in elementary school). 2005’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is…not as good and doesn’t prove itself necessary to exist.
So when word got out that Warner Brothers had green-lit a musical prequel following the formation of Wonka’s chocolate empire, I winced with thoughts of the 2005 film in my mind. But when Paul King who gave us the superb Paddington and Paddington 2 was announced as the writer and director - plus the additions to the cast of Timothée Chalamet as the title character and a supporting ensemble that included the likes of Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, and Hugh Grant of all people playing an Oompa-Loompa - well I couldn’t help but to give it a chance.
Like King’s previous works Wonka is brimming with whimsical characters, costumes, and set design. The direction is on point and the cinematography is vibrant. The musical soundtrack is solid though not necessarily as catchy as other musicals we’ve gotten like last year’s Spirited. Chalamet nails the role as well making me buy him as a younger version of Gene Wilder’s take on the character and Grant’s scenes as the Oompa-Loompa stand out. The movie has plenty of moments that got a chuckle out of me and overall its an entertaining fun fairy tale for families to enjoy this holiday season at the movies.
But there’s something missing from this that I didn’t feel was missing from King’s perspective on Paddington the bear and the Brown family. Those movies were able to combine slapstick, heart, and whimsy all in one. And in particular they were always able to make every little scene feel like it mattered and would be referenced to later in the film. With Wonka the movie feels more like a standard studio family film, and at times feels like its making things up as it goes but gets away with it thanks to Chalamet’s charming performance.
I’d definitely recommend seeing this with family. Kids will love it and you can use it as an introductory to the 1971 classic. It might just barely make my Top 25 of the year. But for all the magic King and Chalamet were able to come together and provide, it just feels like it needed a little more to get into the A-tier territory for me. I give Wonka a very solid and strong B+.