Remakes, prequels and sequels are surely overdone but it is safe to say that Wonka gets an exception as it takes us to a world of pure imagination. Wonka is directed by the same genius who brought Michael Bond’s 1950s children’s storybook character, Paddington, to life. Paul King.
Wonka is centered around the story of the titular character, Willy Wonka, played by Timothee Chalamet. A prequel to Roald Dahl’s 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the film revolves around the creation of the said chocolate factory. Other than the textual inspiration being taken from the book, a great amount of visual inspiration is taken from the two previous movie adaptations of the book, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). We can see that Chalamet has done his research on the adaptations as he embodies the spirit of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp’s Wonkas—more of Wilder’s persona, with a splash of Depp’s whimsical nature.
The story is set in a town in 1930s London, full of chocolate-loving, sweets-gobbling townspeople, probably making the dentist in the town the second richest after the “Chocolate Cartel”. It is surprising to see that the creator of the delectable ‘Wonka Chocolate’ himself, eats the least amount of the sugary delight.
The childhood background of Wonka does differ a bit from the 2005 movie adaptation, showing that it was his sweet mother who motivated his chocolatier dreams, not his authoritative dentist father whom he rebelled against. The story of why and how he hired the Oompa Loompas to work in his factory is also different.
It is refreshing to see Chalamet, who has acted in Dune, Beautiful Boy and Call Me by Your Name, just to name a few, take on a role, let alone a singing role, where he is joyful and happy for the majority of the movie. But it also should not come as a surprise to the audience as he does have experience performing musical numbers during his university days.
The movie, during the title sequence, immediately hits the audience with a nostalgic instrumental rendition of ‘Pure Imagination’, originally performed by Wilder in the 1971 movie adaptation. Although tagged under the ‘musical’ genre, King wants the audience to consider it ‘a movie with music in it’. The seven new songs from the movie are written by Neil Hannon and performed by the star-studded cast—Chalamet, Calah Lane, Olivia Wilde, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Bayton, Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Grant.
The movie does give the audience, who are familiar with the 1971 movie adaptation, a sweet treat; new versions of ‘Oompa Loompa’ performed by Grant and also of ‘Pure Imagination’ enchantingly performed by Chalamet.
Some questions do still remain unanswered like how he collects the exotic ingredients for his chocolates, and why he acts slightly rude towards the children in the earlier adaptations. But nonetheless Wonka does answer a lot more questions than leave the audience with unanswered ones.
Wonka does a brilliant job at creating a golden ticket-worthy origin story for the older audiences and an introductory story for the little ones, with more colour and more music than ever before.
Director: Paul King
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Olivia Wilde, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Grant