'Wonka' review: What a wishful, whimsical, wholesome, warmhearted wonder

Timothee Chamalet shines as a young Willy Wonka in this prequel to the Roald Dahl classic Charlie And the Chocolate Factory.

Director: Paul King
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Tom Davis, Olivia Colman, and Hugh Grant.

What a wishfully whimsical, winningly wholesome, and weirdly warmhearted wonder Wonka is. And what a cheekily charismatic charmer that Chalamet chap is.

This prequel to the Roald Dahl classic story Charlie And The Chocolate Factory begs you to banish all thoughts of Willy Wonka played by Johnny Depp in a top hat and bowl haircut, and instead, be swept away by the sweet, saccharine sensation of Timotee Chamalet and his sparkling smile.

Wait, are you sure we're not actually in a remake of Peter Pan?Wait, are you sure we're not actually in a remake of Peter Pan?

The story here serves as a sort of origin story for Willy Wonka, who lands in London after travelling the Seven Seas, collecting ingredients for his wondrous Wonka chocolates.

However, his dream of opening a chocolate shop at the glorious Galeries Gourmet, is dashed by three conniving chocolatiers in cahoots with one another – Arthur Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton).

Together, the trio form the Chocolate Cartel, who use their chocolates to bribe the Chief-Of-Police (Keegan-Michael Key) into harassing and chasing away wannabe chocolatiers who would disrupt their business.

The Chocolate Cartel makes the Chief Of Police an offer his sweet tooth can't resist.The Chocolate Cartel makes the Chief Of Police an offer his sweet tooth can't resist.

To make matters worse, Willy unwittingly signs an ironclad contract with disreputable hostel owner Mrs Srubbit (Olivia Colman), which gets him into deep debt and binds him to work at her laundromat until he pays off what he owes.

There, he befriends street urchin Noodles (Calah Lane), and together, they plot to make and sell enough chocolate to buy their way out of their contracts.

Oh, and then there’s this strange little man with orange skin and green hair who keeps stealing Willy’s chocolates... but more about him later.

Muad'dib? No, no, that guy's movie only comes out NEXT year.Muad'dib? No, no, that guy's movie only comes out NEXT year.

Chalamet is absolutely magnificent as Wonka, full of effervescent sunshine, eyes ever twinkling with wonder, even when his dreams seem to have been dashed time and again.

While such a pervasively perfect personality could have easily made for a cringing, cloying caricature of a character, Chalamet’s infectiously cheerful smile and charming charisma makes for a Willy you will root for time and time again. And the fact that he has a pretty decent singing voice helps the film pull off its musical numbers perfectly as well.

The only downside to such a winningly wholesome performance is that it’ll be hard to see him as the glum-faced Paul Atreides in next year’s Dune Part 2.

Willy's attempt at building a terrarium was not going well.Willy's attempt at building a terrarium was not going well.

Special mention also goes to Hugh Grant’s suitably snotty turn as the odd, obnoxious Oompa Loompa who keeps running off with Willy’s candy. Trust me, you won’t be able to get that Oompa Loompa song out of your head after this.

In truth, this is probably more of a prequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 adaptation starring Gene Wilder as the eccentric chocolatier, rather than Depp’s weirder 2005 version, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. (It also reprises two iconic songs from the former – Pure Imagination and The Oompa Loompa Song, so there you go).

But anyway, you don’t really need to watch either film beforehand to appreciate this preciously perfect prequel. It’s arguably one of the most wholesome and sweet films you will see all year, and guarantees you will come out of the cinema grinning from ear to ear, and make a beeline for the nearest chocolate stand to satiate your sweet tooth.

9 10


Sweet treats and delectable dreams

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Timothee Chalamet , Wonka , Hugh Grant


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