“Ladies and gentlemen of the Galeries Gourmet, my name is Willy Wonka! I’ve spent the past seven years travelling the world, perfecting my craft. You see I’m something of a magician, inventor, and chocolate maker. So quiet up and listen down. Nope. Scratch that, reverse it.”
I usually don’t go in for musicals. It’s not usually my cup of tea. However, this one took me by surprise. I grew up watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and for me the character of Wonka has always been synonymous with Gene Wilder. But there is something to be said about the showmanship that Timothée Chalamet brought to the role in Wonka. As the titular character, I dare say that he gave Wilder a run for his money as far as showmanship and naïve charm. In this third adaptation based on the 1964 Roald Dahl book, we meet Willy Wonka as a young and naïve man with a pocket full of sovereigns (the film’s currency of choice, though I am unclear as to what one sovereign equates to) and a head full of dreams. Who better to display this charm and innocence than the up-and-coming actor responsible for some of the biggest films in recent years like The King, Dune Part 1, and the upcoming Dune Part 2. He’s also backed up with an excellent cast which includes Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Colman, Rowan Atkinson, and Hugh Grant in a role of a character that goes hand-in-hand with the name Willy Wonka.
Now this isn’t a story about a kid and a chocolate factory. It’s a story about how the chocolate factory came to be. A chocolate factory unlike anything ever imagined before. This is an origin story. Wonka’s origin story, so it goes without say that Charlie will not factor into this story. Here we are introduced to a young and impressionable Willy Wonka, a magician, inventor, and chocolatier who has come an unnamed European city to fulfill his dream of opening his chocolate shop at the Galeries Gourmet. However, the Galeries’ three main chocolatiers – Mr. Slugworth, Mr. Prodnose, and Mr. Fickelgruber – mock Wonka’s chocolates and call the Chief of Police to confiscate his earnings. Unbeknownst to Wonka, Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber, despite being rivals in public, are actually in cahoots under the guise of the “Chocolate Cartel” and work in concert to eliminate their competition. Wonka, whose chocolate is far superior, threatens their monopoly. With the chief of police in their employ, the three intend to run him out of town.
Luckily for Wonka, his short time in the city has yielded him a small yet loyal group of friends to aid him. But if they are to be successful, it will take more than Wonka’s skills as a chocolatier, he will also need to possess the panache of a magician.
“Every good thing in this world, started with a dream. So you hold on to yours.”
At its core, that is what the film is about, obtaining your dreams, and not just for our title character. Of everyone that Chalamet shared the screen with in this film, I’d say the person who was on par with him was a fresh face talent that I expect to be seeing more of based on the strength of her performance here. Calah Lane was a breath of fresh air, despite her character seeming like a template of little orphan Annie. Despite this limitation, she rises above being a simple reproduction and makes the character her own with talents with decades of experience. Through their bond the film displays tremendous heart as the two overcome every obstacle put into their path and share with one another their hopes for a future. While I was satisfied with their conclusion, I was expecting a different, livelier conclusion to their partnership. Still as is, I’m satisfied.
You can’t have a chocolate factory without chocolate, and in Wonka we get to see the method to Wonka’s madness. With treats like “hoverchocs”, we get the inside look into the exotic ingredients that go into making Wonka’s dark, white, nutty, or absolutely insane sweets. Ironically, Wonka’s trademark ingredient was easier to accept than the idea of a chocolate that made you fly. Then I remember the fizzy lifting drinks, and I was able to suspend my disbelief. The treats looked mouthwatering on camera, and according to the director, Paul King, he gained “about 50 pounds” from all the chocolate he ate on set, which I completely understand.
Wonka is a wholesome family experience and very much in line with its predecessor films. In fact, if I had to rank it, I would put it right under Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and above Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I take nothing away from Depp as a tremendous actor, but his Wonka just creeped me out, and as I said earlier, I can’t say enough about Chalamet’s showmanship.