December 19, 2023 – Lately, I've been watching a lot of serious, dramatic films offered for “Awards Consideration,” so it was nice to get to the local theater and see one just for fun that's not so damn serious and depressing. “Wonka” fits the bill, just right for the holiday season.
This is a prequel to the story seen in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) both based on the 1964 Roald Dahl children's book of the same name. This new movie provides an origin story for Willie Wonka and details the events leading up to the construction of his first magical chocolate factory. If you love chocolate, this is the movie for you. There is chocolate in almost every scene.
This musical movie opens with a song by Wonka (played by the ridiculously talented Timothée Chalamet of “Dune,” who has a pleasant singing voice). He lands in London, hoping to set up a chocolate shop in Galeries Gourmet, a place he'd heard about as a child from his late mother (played by Sally Hawkins of “The Shape of Water”).
He finds out quickly that the big city can be a tough place when he quickly loses all his money and is taken to the cleaners by a couple of con artists, Bleacher (Tom Davis of “Paddington 2”) who is a shill for Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Coleman of “The Favourite”) who runs a shifty boarding house operation.
Wonka tries to sell his magical chocolates to customers at Galeries Gourmet, but is sabotaged by corrupt police and a cabal of chocolatiers, led by Arthur Slugworth (Joseph Paterson of “The Beach”) Gerald Prodnose (Matt Lucas of the “Doctor Who” TV series) and Felix Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton of the “Ghosts” TV series).
Wonka ends up as a virtual slave in the dungeon below Mrs. Scrubitt's boarding house, working off a massive debt incurred by signing Mrs. Scrubbit's devious housing contract, along with his fellow slaves, Noodle (Calah Lane of the “This is Us” TV series) Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter of “Downton Abbey”) Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar) Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell) and comedian Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher).
All the slaves are resigned to their fate until Wonka, chocolatier and magician, with dozens of tricks up his sleeve, convinces his fellow slaves that they can get free from their debts with a little help from some great chocolate candies. Escape requires some con games, some magic and some great chocolate.
Escaping from Mrs. Scrubitt's dungeon is just the start of the roadblocks to chocolatiering success raised by the Cabal of Chocolatiers, the corrupt police and a corrupt priest (played by Rowan Atkinson of “Love Actually”). These are formidable foes. It will take a chocolate heist by Wonka and all of his friends, as well as unlikely help from a renegade Oompa-Loompa (played by a miniaturized Hugh Grant of “Love Actually”) to finally bring the corrupt chocolate mob to justice.
This is a fun, tasty movie filled with songs and dancing (some of the music is from the 1971 film). The sets and production designs are great, and the acting is solid. There is not much in the way of subtlety about it, but it works just fine as nostalgic filmmaking. The Wonka in this film doesn't really have the dark edge to him seen in the other films. He is more of a nice guy. I don't see anything wrong with that. This movie rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.