Star Rating:


Director: Paul King

Actors: Timothee Chalamet, Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant

Release Date: Friday 15th December 2023

Genre(s): Adventure, Comedy, Family

Running time: 116 minutes

Young adventurer Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) arrives in a large city with plans to open his own chocolate shop. There's just one problem - a trio of chocolatiers, Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Matthew Baynton), run the city and shut down competition with the help of the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key). When Wonka finds himself suddenly indebted to Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) and his dreams of chocolate melting away, he finds himself joining together with a group of unlikely characters to break free and find his way...

As much as Gene Wilder's iteration of Willy Wonka is the pre-eminent version of the character, it hasn't stopped Johnny Depp and Timothee Chalamet from trying to put their own spin on it. What's clear within a few minutes of 'Wonka' is that Chalamet is less concerned with trying to find his voice in the character, as both the costume and the world surrounding him is doing much of the work for him. Paul King's eye for design and decoration means that 'Wonka' has a texture and a production to it that works wonders for the whimsy of it all.

Yet, as much as the movie is called 'Wonka' and it's Chalamet front and centre throughout the press and promotion, it's the supporting cast that makes it so much more. Olivia Colman goes full panto as the onerous Mrs. Scrubbit, the double-dealing landlady who beggars Wonka on his first day in the city. The chocolate cartel includes fellow 'Peep Show' alum Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, and Matthew Baynton who are all equally pantoesque. Rich Fulcher, Jim Carter and Natasha Rothwell make up the inmates of Scrubbit's domestic jail with all the verve and pageantry you'd expect. The real star, however, is Hugh Grant as Lofty the Oompa-Loompa who plays the role with all the gusto and charm you've come to expect from Grant in this part of his career.

For much of 'Wonka', you're led on a merry dance between silliness and sentimentality, and very often there's a fear it will spill over into the other. Of course, Paul King's work on 'Paddington' and its sequel means that he's more than capable of balancing these two ideas and keeping the thing moving along at a gentle but snappy pace. Neil Hannon's mixture of baroque pop and jazzy musical moments fits perfectly into Paul King's script, and the whole swirls together to make it an enjoyably agreeable experience.

Is it better than the original? Of course not. Nothing could topple Gene Wilder's performance or the childlike wonder we all felt when seeing the chocolate river for the first time. Yet, for younger audiences who may have never known the glee and the giddiness of all that, 'Wonka' could prove to be a future classic for them. There's enough charm, warmth and goodwill in 'Wonka' to power a steamboat, never mind a chocolate factory.