Paul King did an excellent job creating the whimsical and heartwarming world of “Paddington.” Now he’s tasked to bring “Wonka” (2023) to life. Co-written and directed by King, this prequel follows a young Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) and his journey to become the most notable chocolate maker.
Full transparency, I was skeptical about Chalamet’s acting capabilities but I couldn’t be happier that I was proven wrong after witnessing his magnetic, charming, and memorable depiction of Wonka. In a world where it’s impossible not to be compared to Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, Chalamet pays homage to both performances while making it his own. That is not easy to accomplish, yet he does it effortlessly.
His ability to convey naivete with a perfect dose of cleverness was excellent. Plus the man can sing and dance? Bonus points!
The film opens with the song “Pure Imagination” instantly transporting me into this magical world of Willy Wonka. We are then greeted by the opening number that introduces us to Chalamet’s Wonka. The vibrancy, festivities, and Broadway musicals of it all embrace the audience with the warmest of hugs. The atmosphere of joy, hope and optimism is palpable—the perfect holiday feel-good movie of the year.
Hugh Grant as the Oompa Loompa was perfectly delivered. He stole every scene, although I wish he were in it a little more than he was. Before the introduction of Grant’s Oompa Loompa, the rest of the cast wonderfully fit into their roles and their respective parts in Willy’s inner circle of friends.
Calah Lane’s Noodle is wonderfully written and her heartbreaking story will infiltrate people’s hearts. These friends send a beautiful message of kindness, community, and eventually, the people we share our daily lives with.
In addition to the stunning production design and cinematography, the film is elevated by its incredible songs, many of which stayed in my head for days.
As someone who lost a mother, the stories about the individuals who pursue their dreams with the guidance of their deceased parents hit home. We learn about where some of Wonka’s ideas and motivations originate. It also sends the much-needed message of the importance of community and friendships.
My only dilemma is that some jokes are too childish (but the children in my screening were having a blast) and the antagonists were too one-dimensional. However, the other elements of the film far supersede the negatives.
Overall, “Wonka” is a charming, joyful, and perfect holiday origin story of one of the most iconic chocolate makers. Like the delicious candy Wonka makes, this movie is sweet and rich and the ideal way to end the year.