Wonka Brings the Feeling of Dahl to a New Story

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Wonka Review

From the moment Wonka was announced, you could hear the murmurings “Do we need another version of this?” or “Do we even need his back story?” I can’t say that I didn’t say this multiple times myself. And went into a screening of the film wondering how much damage a movie could do to a story for a character and book series I grew up loving. It seems the reboot fatigue is strong amongst theatergoers right now, and rightly so. But Wonka, it will surprise you.

It didn’t take long at all for any apprehensions I had about the movie to wash away. Is it the bright colors, the silly musical numbers, the characters that are more caricature than human that won me over? I’m not entirely sure. It could be the gorgeous chocolates that make you want to lick the screen (seriously, bring some chocolate to the theater as you watch this movie). It more than likely was that the movie has the heart of a Roald Dahl story, even if he never wrote this one.

Wonka Review

Wonka is the back story of Willy Wonka, the man who we all meet years later at his Chocolate Factory when he gives out the golden tickets to six kids. It takes you back to his younger years when he was more innocent and trusting of everyone around him. Finding his way to London to make a fortune in chocolate, Wonka ends up having to work off a debt in a laundry facility. Using his inventions and the help of another young girl who’s at the laundry facility, he works on his chocolate and a path to freedom for them all.

This version of a backstory of Wonka completely erases the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) that has him as a candy-obsessed deprived dentist’s kid. Instead, it has him as a boy who is using chocolate to reconnect to the mother he lost and to make people happy. Is this a better backstory? That can be debated, but it does fit better with the Wonka we know from the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But something to keep in mind, this isn’t an original Dahl story. The majority of Roald Dahl’s books have already been adapted to the screen and more are coming down the pipeline (we’re really looking forward to The Twits in 2025). This could be another reason fans may be afraid to give Wonka a chance. And I’d be lying if that wasn’t my main apprehension since the day the movie was announced. Can an original story, albeit based on a well-loved character, be created without the original source coming from Dahl himself? It’s a legitimate concern and one thankfully quickly put to rest as Wonka takes the screen. It doesn’t shy away from the slightly dark themes of Dahl’s stories are known for mixed with the wit and whimsy of these worlds. It puts the power in the hands of children and makes the adults a bit more bumbling adversaries – all themes in his other works.

Wonka Review

If you’re a fan of the Gene Wilder adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there’s a good chance you’re going to love Wonka. Is he Gene Wilder? No, but the breadcrumbs are there. Timothée Chalamet seems to embody a young Wilder and you can see what could be the early days of the character we all grew up with and loved. It also takes the time to nod to the original character in every detail that the movie builds up to, which will be the chocolate factory in the future.

Filled with decadent chocolates and elements that make children of all ages fall in love with the worlds Roald Dahl created, Wonka will be released in theaters everywhere on December 15th and has a limited release in IMAX on December 6th.

Overall Rating:

Four and a half Star Review

About Wonka:

Wonka Review

Based on the extraordinary character at the center 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.

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 an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, all told with fabulous heart and humor.  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.

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 Hugh Grant (“Paddington 2,” “A Very English Scandal”). 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”).

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.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents, in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Heyday Films Production, a Paul King Confection, “Wonka,” set to open in theaters and in IMAX internationally beginning 6 December 2023 and in North America on December 15, 2023; it will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.

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