Review: 'Wonka' is choc full of fun serving a sweet surprise with a charming Timothee Chalamet as the lead
"Come with me and you'll be in world of pure imagination" - Willy Wonka
Published: Thursday,Dec 07, 2023 03:50 AM GMT-07:00
"The greedy best the needy; it's just the way of the world." - As a character mouths this in Wonka, it sets the tone for a ride of ups and downs for a young, vibrant, ambitious and kind-hearted chocolate maker, Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet). This isn't your usual grown-up Wonka who has seen enough - instead, we have a still-naive, optimistic and lovable young Wonka with an origin story to remember.
These are tricky terrains for the people attached to making films like there, where you need to balance nostalgia with freshness, effective storytelling and, of course, lots of chocolates. Having had the chance to see the film beforehand, here's what I thought about it-
Where Was This Chocolate-Boy Timothee All This Time?
Okay, we know Chalamet is charming. However, it is almost perplexing to think that a 'chocolate-boy' looking Chalamet never quite did such roles and is usually known for deeper and more intense performances. But this seems to be a tailor-made character for him, as his natural boyish charm, good looks, and incredible acting chops lend just the right amount of love and optimism that Willy Wonka is known for.
The film strikes a rare balance of making sure the musical aspect is never overdone while genuinely being melodious, funny and actually quite catchy, along with propelling the story forward. Director Paul King and his team have gone 'nuts' here (Okay, I will try to tone down the puns), as the sky is the limit here in terms of world-building and character development. Every good story needs an effective villain, and here we have aplenty, but to make these bad guys sorta lovable and goofy is where Wonka shines even more. They are malicious but still somewhat adorable. After all, it's all about chocolate.
The incorporation of dialogue and emotions into the musical numbers is seamless and never becomes a bother, whereas making any project Broadway-styled is probably the toughest to crack (I can't help myself).
Never An Overdose of Sweetness
What's even more fantastic is that Wonka doesn't forget to have an emotional core and even a moment of thrill and suspense. Albeit cliched, it works due to the way it sets you up. Apart from Chalamet, each and every actor is fabulous as well, with obvious standouts being Hugh Grant as Oompa Loompa and Rowan Atkinson as the priest of the church. I almost wish that Grant's Oompa Loompa was real, and his unmistakable sass and wit would just make him the perfect companion.
Yes, I wasn't talking much about the world-building so far because it is stating the obvious. I still will. There is an incredible amount of detailing in terms of practical sets and VFX gone into creating this world of imagination, and it shines throughout. Not once do you feel that the suspension of disbelief is stretched, and you're forcing yourself to still stick to it. You are in the world and actually never wanna leave it while eating Wonka's lifetime supply of chocolates.
One would think that there is a sickening overdose of sweetness - metaphorically and literally, with 'chocolate' being the constant - Nah, it isn't. While talking about the sweet tooth of characters and multiple people gorging them and even a couple of them literally swimming in a pool of chocolate, it never feels like it. The backstories, the cameos, the emotions and the pure love blend for such a delicious box of delight.
Wonka had several doubters right from the casting of Chalamet to the decision to have an origin story and other things - but it is safe to say that all of that has been wronged in the sweetest way possible. On one instance, Wonka says, 'come with me and you'll be in world of pure imagination' - it justifies and delivers as well as you can imagine it to be.
Rating - **** (4/5)