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'Wonka' Review: A Fun, Charming Prequel

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Wonka is the 2023 prequel movie to the classic story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Paddington director Paul King, and stars Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka. In this movie, Wonka is a young chocolatier who looks to sell his candy and recapture the magic he once felt with his mom. Wonka must deal with the Chocolate Cartel, run by Arthur Slugworth, played by Paterson Joseph, as well as owing money to people running a corrupt boarding house that tricks him. Wonka gets help from a girl named Noodle, played by Calah Lane, and other people who owe money. Wonka was also produced by David Heyman, who produced all the Harry Potter movies.

It’s been eighteen years since we’ve seen the character Willy Wonka on the big screen. Warner Bros got the official rights to the character Wonka in 2016 from the Roald Dahl Estate. As a fan of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, I was excited to hear this movie was announced but also concerned. Would this movie fall flat like some prequels or be a surprisingly good movie?

It’s safe to say Wonka is a fun, charming prequel that pays homage to the original 1971 movie.

The best part about Wonka is the title character himself, Willy Wonka. Timothee Chalamet adds more charm to the Wonka character, showing that he is more than an exciting, sometimes crazy candy man. The film focuses on his dreams and trying to reclaim the magic he once felt when his mom made chocolate. It’s a nice reversal from the 2005 remake’s plot of Wonka having a tense relationship with his dad. Chalamet does well singing the songs as well.

The rest of the cast is fine, but only a few other performances besides Chalamet’s performance stand out. The character Noodle, played by Calah Lane, is a young girl who is mistreated by the owners of the boarding house and helps Wonka out. Lane does well, outperforming many of the older actors. Paterson Joseph is hilarious as Arthur Slugworth, the movie’s main antagonist. Slugworth is jealous of Wonka’s candy and goes to extreme lengths to stop him from selling it. Rowan Atkinson, known for playing Mr. Bean, is also hilarious as this corrupt chocolate-loving cleric who helps Slugworth. Hugh Grant does well in playing this Oompa-Loopa named Lofty, who steals from Wonka at first and later helps him, but don’t expect a lot of him in the movie.

The songs and score are great and bring the same fun, vibrant energy as the original movie. The movie has many Easter eggs and references, not just to the original movie, but to the 2005 remake as well. For example, one of the Chocolate Cartel leaders cannot say the word poor, like how Wonka couldn’t say the word parents in the 2005 movie. The costume designs are great, as well as the special effects and visuals.

While Wonka hits the right marks, it’s far from a perfect movie. The movie’s tone is goofy and colorful, which works so well and makes it a worthy prequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s the few times the movie goes into dark corners that feel off. For example, Slugworth and the other Chocolate Cartel leaders take extreme actions to stop Willy Wonka from selling chocolate that feels out of place, especially since Slugworth is known as a regular rival of Wonka’s, who at worst sends spies to steal Wonka’s secrets. The third act of the movie, while enjoyable, feels predictable and turns the musical movie into a spy thriller out of nowhere.

Overall, Wonka is a fun prequel that will satisfy fans of the original movie. Timothee Chalamet brings a lot of charm and fun to the Wonka character. The musical numbers land and the score is amazing. The movie is held back by a few predictable moments, but it still makes for a fun movie.

My final grade for Wonka is a B+. It’s a fun prequel that will entertain fans of the original 1971 movie and win some new younger fans despite a predictable third act and sometimes uneven tone. If you are a fan of Willy Wonka & and the Chocolate Factory, I highly recommend this movie. What are your thoughts on Wonka? Let us know in the comments below.

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