Wonka Film Review

'Wonka' - Image © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
National Arts and Comedy Editor. Based in Melbourne.
Pop culture, pop music and gaming are three of Jesse’s biggest passions. Lady Gaga, Real Housewives and The Sims can almost sum him up – but he also adores a night at the cinema or a trip to the theatre.

The trailer for the upcoming Willy Wonka origin story left a bad taste in lots of mouths – appearing naff to some and a little cringe to others. Well, if the lesson of not judging a book by its cover can be applied to anything, it's the completely delightful, delicious film that is 'Wonka’.

The world as a collective feels pretty dim at the minute. There's not much joy going on, even in the realm of entertainment – the recent Writers Guild strike meant that even escapism through the medium of film and television was slim pickings.

'Wonka' is here – post-strike, right at the start of the holidays – to bring some delight to cinemas across the world. That certainly feels like its clear goal, and boy does it deliver. Vibrant colours, mouth-watering candy, real emotion and glorious music: a recipe for a scrumptious treat.

Yep, there's no shortage of food and chocolate-related similes and metaphors here – it'd be doing Willy Wonka a disservice to exclude them, after all.

At the centre of it all is Timothée Chalamet in an iconic role known across the globe. Whether you're an OG fan of Gene Wilder or into the more whacky interpretation from Johnny Depp, everyone's got a favourite, but it won't surprise this reviewer if Chalamet's take on the character becomes the frontrunner.

Chalamet is a total charmer in this role – embodying the camp strangeness of the character but also tapping into his deeply empathetic side, bringing a gripping emotional element to the film that feels crucial to its overall success. With nothing but a tragic backstory and a dream, Willy Wonka's development from beginning to end is fantastic, and rewarding to witness as a viewer.

Calah Lane as Noodle is a worthy sidekick for Wonka – the pair play a delightful balancing act throughout the film, and Lane, though more than ten years Chalamet's junior, more than matches his vigour and screen presence. Their pure, wholesome friendship is one of the reasons this reviewer had eyes twinkling with tears for much of 'Wonka'.

Hugh Grant's Oompa-Loompa gets a few laughs, but his screen time is short (pardon the pun). He makes the most of what he's been given, however, and it pays off. Few elicit laughs and cheers from simply appearing on screen, and Rowan Atkinson is part of this exclusive club. His goofy priest role was also small but effective.

Paterson Joseph, Mathew Baynton and Matt Lucas as Slugworth, Fickelgruber and Prodnose respectively bring the villainous energy to the film in an expertly-crafted mish-mash of believably high stakes and total buffoonery. Keegan-Michael Key adds to this with progressively funnier physical comedy.

Olivia Colman brings Miss Trunchbull energy to her Mrs. Scrubbit, running a laundromat with a dark underbelly and a cast of beautiful characters (Jim Carter, Natasha Rothwell, Rich Fulcher and Rakhee Thakrar) who have fallen victim to her faux generosity.

Musically, the toe-tapping in 'Wonka' is real. Featuring the classics like 'Oompa-Loompa' and 'Pure Imagination', Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot expand on the magic, providing original music in the vein of 'The Greatest Showman' (though not quite as explosive and showstopping) which cuts through and pulls the heartstrings. Larger ensemble numbers are visually memorable, with dynamic choreography.

'Wonka' has opened shop, and there couldn't be a better time than the holidays for the divine smell of chocolate and the utter charm of Timothée Chalamet. This film is for everyone – catering to old and young – seeking a short but sweet escape from reality loaded with nutty humour, crisp music, and a story oozing with beautiful emotion.

★★★★☆ 1/2.

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