Roald Dahl has graced us with plenty of wonderful, creative, adventurous stories about magical lands and the quirky individuals that inhabit them. One of the most memorable adaptations of his works is 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. From the recognizable songs to Gene Wilder’s wild antics, the memory of this film has lasted for many years. A new Wonka film would no doubt be tricky to conceive. Tim Burton’s remake did not work for audiences for example. Paul King’s 2023 Wonka though is as easily watchable as it is entertaining.
2023’s Wonka isn’t a remake but a prequel showing us how the young chocolatier got his start and what he had to go through. Wonka ends up in Europe where he plans to fulfill his dreams of opening a chocolate shop. With the help of an orphan girl named Noodle, they plan to deliver the world’s best chocolate to the public while evading the evil chocolate cartel.
Director Paul King has a massive talent for being able to delight audiences while bringing them into strange unusual worlds. King previously directed the past two Paddington films. Movies that warm your heart and leave you wanting more. Wonka accomplishes the same feat.
The production design and costume designs are immaculate. This is a silly world. People change color, float, and defy all laws of gravity. The audience doesn’t bat an eye though because this movie does a wonderful job at world-building and being consistent in tone.
Timothee Chalamet is a powerhouse. Singing, and dancing with what seems like such ease. I’m convinced the man can do no wrong. He brings a youthful zany energy to the role of Wonka. He is kind, eager, determined, and charming beyond belief. It is pleasant to see this joyful version of Wonka before he grows up to be more cynical.
The rest of the cast is filled with fun larger-than-life characters. Calah Lane is very easily likable as the young orphan who helps Willy. Paterson Joseph plays the evil Slugworth doing what he can to take down Wonka. He is a huge highlight as he chews every scene that he is in perfectly. Hugh Grant plays a humorous Oompa-Loompa who just might be the reason Wonka becomes more cynical. Added to this are some great performances from Rowan Atkinson, Olivia Coleman, and Keegan-Michael Key.
The songs are fun and help move the story along. It helps that everyone can sing as well. They aren’t the kind of songs that will remain in your head after but they all are performed well and get the job done.
What Wonka does best is simply spread joy. It is silly and magical throughout but everything has purpose. The movie feels sincere with its inspiring message of following your dreams. I do not believe that this story would work with just any director though. Paul King brings the whimsical out of everyone and it just works wonderfully. The performances are entertaining, the set is eye-catching and the whole movie feels like a warm hug. This isn’t a masterpiece or the best Wonka movie because how could you top Gene Wilder of course? Still, it is a crowd-pleaser that will make you smile and make you crave chocolate.