Film review: Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet 

From Paul King, writer/director of the “Paddington” films, David Heyman, producer of “Harry Potter,” “Gravity,” Fantastic Beasts and Paddington, and producers Alexandra Derbyshire (the Paddington films, Jurassic World: Dominion) and Luke Kelly (Roald Dahl’s The Witches), comes Wonka, an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, all told with fabulous heart and humour.  

Wonka will be released in cinemas across the UK on 8th December 2023 by Warner Bros. Pictures, in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Heyday Films Production, a Paul King Confection. 

wonka london mums magazine collage

The story

Based on the extraordinary character at the centre of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, Wonka tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today.

wonka movie still

Starring Timothée Chalamet in the title role, this irresistibly vivid and inventive big screen spectacle will introduce audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time – proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible.

The stars 

Starring alongside Chalamet are Calah Lane (“The Day Shall Come”), Emmy and Peabody Award winner Keegan-Michael Key (“The Prom,” “Schmigadoon”), Paterson Joseph (“Vigil,” “Noughts + Crosses”), Matt Lucas (“Paddington,” “Little Britain”), Mathew Baynton (“The Wrong Mans,” “Ghosts”), Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water,” the “Paddington” films, “Spencer”), Rowan Atkinson (the Johnny English and “Mr. Bean” films, “Love Actually”), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), with Oscar winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite,” “The Lost Daughter”) and absolutely genius Hugh Grant as the Oompa Loompa (Paddington 2, “A Very English Scandal”).  Grant is getting better and better in his performances as he gets older. The film also stars Natasha Rothwell (“White Lotus,” “Insecure”), Rich Fulcher (“Marriage Story,” “Disenchantment”), Rakhee Thakrar (“Sex Education,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”), Tom Davis (Paddington 2, “King Gary”) and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Paddington 2, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” “Mary Poppins Returns”).

wonka london mums magazine collage

Simon Farnaby (“Paddington 2”) & Paul King wrote the screenplay, based on a story by King and characters created by Roald Dahl.  Michael Siegel, Cate Adams, Rosie Alison and Tim Wellspring are serving as executive producers. King’s behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Chung-Hoon Chung (“Last Night in Soho,” “Ah-ga-ssi”); Oscar-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley (“Tenet,” “Dunkirk”); editor Mark Everson (the “Paddington” films); Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (the “Paddington” films, “Topsy-Turvy”); and composer Joby Talbot (the “Sing” films).  Neil Hannon of the band The Divine Comedy is writing original songs for the film.

 

The trailer 

The verdict 

The performance of Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in the origin story of Roald Dahl’s iconic chocolate factory owner is absolutely credible and ‘delicious.’ Directed and written by Paul King, along with co-writer Simon Farnaby, the film has generated significant anticipation, particularly given the success of their previous collaboration on Paddington 2.

SIMON farnaby and paul king with monica costa

Watch my interviews with them to appreciate the sweetness of these two, whom I consider the best people in the film industry.

I commend Chalamet’s portrayal of Willy Wonka, especially for his innocent gaze and approach, reminiscent of the charm seen in another character from King and Farnaby’s repertoire – Paddington. The actor’s bold and big-hearted interpretation adds a refreshing element to the character, creating an enjoyable cinematic experience that lasts beyond the holiday season.

Wonka is an all-singing, all-dancing spectacle, with a focus on delivering a fun experience rather than introducing darker elements present in previous adaptations. Director Paul King can literally turn projects into gold, and with Wonka, he has exceeded all my expectations, considering my love for Dahl’s story and Johnny Depp’s genius portrayal of the eccentric chocolatier.

My personal connection with the film-makers and their past successes, especially the Paddington movies, influences my positive reception of Wonka, of course. The movie gets a perfect score of 10/10 from London Mums, with praise for its ability to captivate and entertain. While this rating reflects a highly positive perspective, it’s important to acknowledge that individual taste varies, and some critical voices have raised concerns about the film’s depth.

Wonka appears to resonate well with those who appreciate the creative touch of Paul King and Simon Farnaby. Timothée Chalamet’s performance and the overall fun-filled nature of the movie contribute to a positive viewing experience, despite some divergence in critical opinions.

Enough said. No spoilers. You’ve got to watch it — with or without kids!

London Mums’ rating: 10/10

Teen verdict by Natalie Johnson (16)

wonka screening teenagers

“Promising to serve up a family treat just in time for Christmas, Wonka is the third big-screen outing for Roald Dahl’s eccentric but beguiling chocolate magnate – but is it a sweet success or a stale remake?

The film breaks with the stylised steampunk Tim Burton / Johnny Depp instalment and instead aligns itself with Gene Wilder’s 1971 classic, this time serving as a prequel to Dahl’s original story. We find out how Willy Wonka, played charmingly and enthusiastically by Timothée Chalamet, came to establish his chocolate empire from humble beginnings – facing adversity and challenge along the way.

An all-star ensemble cast – including Rowan Atkinson, Matt Lucas, Olivia Colman and Hugh Grant – perform perfectly, bringing their own brands of sparkle and comedic precision to the proceedings. Grant in particular – as the original Oompa Loompa – steals his scenes with deliciously haughty indignation, despite being digitally reduced to just a foot tall.

There had been criticism of the casting from some quarters – with the accusation that an Oompa Loompa should have been played by someone with dwarfism as in the two previous films – but Grant does an excellent job in channelling the character’s natural sarcasm and scorn.   

Chalamet meanwhile plays homage to the first film by recreating the hyper erratic and child-like nature of Wilder’s portrayal to reach an older audience of parents, serving as a familiar and slightly nostalgic take. A sprinkling of songs from the original – including Pure Imagination – further pay tribute to the 1971 adaptation.

Although I expected the storyline to revolve more around the discovery and origins of the Oompa Loompas, the main plot provided lots of new characters and action sequences to grip the audience and appeal to a younger demographic as well as those who had loyalties to previous depictions of Willy Wonka.

Despite its song-filled, lively attraction, I was hoping to see more of the development of Wonka himself and what triggered his unconventional behaviour. I would have liked for the characters to have been slightly more fleshed out, delving further into the origins of characters.

I also thought that the film could have benefitted from using characters and plot devices from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to make it into more of a prequel because the plot of Wonka strays quite far from the original story, allowing it to veer into the realm of being entirely separate from the classic.

Ultimately Wonka is a highly enjoyable and engaging watch and one I would recommend to children or indeed anyone who wants a light and colourful escape.”

Host Yinka Bokinni and Chocolate Sculptor Jen Lindsey-Clark officially unveiled life-sized chocolate statue inspired by Wonka in Trafalgar Square, to celebrate the new film’s release in cinemas on 8th December.

Host Yinka Bokinni and Chocolate Sculptor Jen Lindsey-Clark officially unveiled life-sized chocolate statue inspired by Wonka in Trafalgar Square, to celebrate the new film’s release in cinemas on 8th December 2023.

 

Madame Tussauds London reveals behind-the-scenes shots of the making of its latest figure, man of the moment, Timothee Chalamet. The Wonka star will join the attraction in Spring 2024. www.madametussauds.com/london/

Madame Tussauds London reveals behind-the-scenes shots of the making of its latest figure, man of the moment, Timothee Chalamet. The Wonka star will join the attraction in Spring 2024.

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