Eyebrows were raised and much dismissive discourse took place on social media when it was revealed that current Hollywood favourite, Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Little Women, Dune), would be donning the famous top hat and purple coat to play a young Willy Wonka in an new adaptation of the much loved Roald Dahll adventure.
Written by the dream team that brought us Paddington in 2014 and the absolutely delightful Paddington 2 in 2017, Wonka serves as a prequel to Mel Stuart’s 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory which starred Gene Wilder as the iconic chocolatier.
Young Willy Wonka dreams of opening his own chocolate shop to perfect an art handed to him by his late mother (Sally Hawkins). Newly arrived in town with a head full of dream and a top hat overloading with magical marvel, Willy is set upon by a number of duplicitous individuals who would rather not share their wealthy customers with him.
Tricked into signing his life away by his deceitful landlady, Willy teams up with young Orphan Noodle (newcomer Calah Lane, perfect) who not only teaches him to finally read, but also promises to help him with his business venture.
As Willy battles to free himself from his captors and finally realise his dream of owning a chocolate factory, he must keep his natural optimism in the face of deceit and callousness.
Director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby have delivered another winning title. Their film is not only peppered with some decidedly catchy song and dance numbers, but also contains a wonderfully optimistic message of triumph over adversity.
Coupled with Barnaby’s subtle and often multilayered comedic flare, King’s direction feels as otherworldly and as wonderfully bonkers as the much loved 1971 adaptation. While the levels of silliness are often cranked up to the max, Farnaby and King have also managed to make a movie that understands the legacy of the much loved first film. With whimsy aplenty and more than its fair share of silly antics, Wonka is genuinely one of the best Dahl adaptations of all time.
Chalamet sings, dances and wonderfully encapsulates the idea the character of Willy in the most extraordinary fashion. The supporting cast, including a standout performance by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as Willy’s landlady Mrs. Scrubbit, adds another layer of brilliance to this instant holiday season classic.
Wonka successfully balances its fantastical elements with a compelling narrative that explores the motivations and inspirations behind the creation of this much loved character. King and Farnaby have delivered another winner and Chalamet can do no wrong.