Candy lovers unite to see “Wonka,” the newest foray into the fantastical candy world of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Set as a prequel, this movie tells the story of how Willy Wonka became the famed chocolatier, who was also a magician, inventor, world traveler, musician, with the most vivid imagination, tons of ingenuity, and a positive attitude.
I must admit that the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” 1971 version, featuring Gene Wilder, is still my favorite rendition and I’m sure I will always remain a loyal fan, no matter how many iterations are made. The 2005 version directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp did not impress me with its dark and sinister vibe.
This latest 2023 installment, called simply “Wonka,” features Dune star Timothée Chalamet who is perfectly cast in this fun and zany film that begins with the familiar “Pure Imagination” song. He personifies positivity and creativity as he lands in Paris to take the city by storm with his destiny as a chocolate maker in the Gallery Gourmet. He is too trusting and falls into the unscrupulous clutches of Mrs. Scrubbitt, played connivingly by Academy Award winner Olivia Colman. He discovers an eclectic array of friends, who become like family, when he is enslaved in the Scrubbitt’s laundry.
Wonka’s sidekick Noodle, played by Calah Lane, steals the show with her kind heart and willingness to teach Wonka to read. An especially touching scene is when she and Wonka sneak into the zoo, singing and dancing their way through milking Abigail the giraffe, because everyone knows that’s the best milk for chocolate making.
A whimsical array of chocolates is introduced throughout the film like “hoverchoc” which he offers to the evil chocolate cartel ~ Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber, who are out to stop him at every turn. Silver lining treats are designed to give people a ray of hope and hair repair eclairs do just that. I was a little sad that this movie didn’t highlight much of the candy making process, which seemed to be done by his magical briefcase. Anyone who’s seen the original film remembers Violet eating the three-course dinner chewing gum and turning into a giant blueberry, and in this version there are several scenes where people are affected after eating the candy.
When Wonka and his band of loveable misfits finally open the candy shop, it is certainly whimsical, with chocolate bushes, cotton candy clouds, and firework sugar streamers; but for me it didn’t evoke the magical emotion quite like the original movie. See what you think!
Singing and dancing to new tunes are sprinkled throughout the movie, as crazy antics and chocolate causing silly side effects ensue. I missed the merry band of Oompa Loompas, but Hugh Grant as the solo orange little guy, with green hair, is a hilarious addition as he pops up periodically to steal chocolate and, in the end, save Wonka’s life. Wonka is doomed to fail as the chocolate cartel collaborates with local police and the church cleric, played by Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, along with 100 chocolate loving monks.
The cinematography paints a nostalgic old world backdrop, coupled with the dapper outfits of purple coats, vests, and magic top hats that Wonka sports. You are sure to enjoy the nostalgic element, kindness component and imaginative nature of this film, geared for the whole family.
I talked to two movie goers who mentioned that they loved the movie and laughed all the way through it. Several middle-school aged boys shared that they had seen all three of the Wonka movies and this was by far their favorite.
Plan to enjoy a world of pure imagination, while watching the “Wonka” movie, and don’t forget the candy during the show!
We are lucky to have our own “Mrs. Wonka” in Trish Grueser who owns Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory (at 1126 Orange Avenue) with her husband Don, which boasts a vast array of candy with almost everything imaginable from taffy, gummies, hand dipped chocolate delicacies, jellybeans to nostalgic homemade treats. I was disappointed to learn that in real life the Wonka Chocolate Company was purchased by Nestle, who discontinued the Wonka Bars in 2010. Now if only they still had golden tickets…
Movie times: Click here
Genre: Comedy, Adventure
Director: Paul King
Actors: Timothée Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Calah Lane, Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes