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Wonka is a whimsical prequel
Warner Bros enlists talented director Paul King to take viewers back to the world of chocolate in Wonka. King penned the screenplay with Simon Farnaby from his idea, which tells of the origin story of Willy Wonka, who we all know was first introduced in the 1964 novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, which later received two film adaptations.
It is the early 20th century, and Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) is an aspiring magician, inventor, and chocolatier who has just arrived in Europe with dreams of opening a chocolate shop in the Galeries Gourmet. Unfortunately for Willy, a chocolate cartel comprised of Arthur Slugsworth (Paterson Joseph), Gerald Prodnose (Matt Lucas), and Felix Fickelgruber (Matthew Baynton) do not want Willy on their turf and work with the chief of police (Keegan-Michael Key) to ensure Willy stays in his lane.
A series of events leads to Willy working at a launderette under the iron fist of Mrs. Scrubitt (Oliva Colman) and her muscle Bleacher (Tom Davis). He soon meets the orphan Noodle (Calah Lane), who becomes his assistant, and other workers who assist Willy as he sets out to become the world’s most excellent candy maker. Of course, it is not a Willy Wonka film with an Oompa-Loompa, and this time, we have Lofty (Hugh Gant) along for the ride.
I cannot tell you how many times I saw Willy Wonka growing up. While my introduction to Gene Wilder was in Silver Streak, seeing what he did in Willy Wonka was magical. A creative backstory spin on an existing property is always fascinating if they keep the aura. Thankfully, Paul King mastered the appeal of wonder with his Paddington films and knows how to appeal to adults and their kids.
Whether it is through song or dialogue, everyone gets a moment to shine in the film, but without a doubt, the film belongs to Academy Award and three-time Golden Globe nominee Chalamet, who brings a wonder to Wonka of a young man on the cusp of adulthood. There was never a moment in the film where I thought Chalamet was cosplaying Wilder or Johnny Depp’s 2005 version of the character; instead, he makes his own.
One of the things I commend the creative team with is downplaying the weirdness found in the source material. There was a specific character in the film who thought would serve as a love interest for Wonka, but that angle never happens. Nevertheless, viewers should know what to expect going into a prequel about Willy Wonka, and as a cinematic confection, it delivers the goods.
Final Grade: B+
Wonka is in theaters now.
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