‘Wonka’ movie review: Paul King’s engaging, decadent Christmas present

With its bright pops of colour, delicious fountains of chocolate, a sniffy 18-inch Oompa-Loompa leading a charming, talented cast, this origin story of one of Roald Dahl’s most fascinating characters is a winner all the way

Updated - December 08, 2023 06:36 pm IST

Published - December 08, 2023 06:28 pm IST

A still from ‘Wonka’

A still from ‘Wonka’ | Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Wonka makes one believe in miracles. After the disappointingly cynical Family Switch, came the dream-like The Shepherd, which made one gingerly believe in the magic of movies. And here comes Wonka, the story of how the mysterious chocolatier, Willy Wonka, from Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, came to be the Napoleon of confectionary.

Here we see Willy (Timothée Chalamet) land in a town renowned for its chocolate with a dream and a rapidly diminishing cache of money as he runs into various cheats. With no place to spend the night, he falls into the clutches of Bleacher (Tom Davis), who takes him to a laundry and guest house run by Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman). She is willing to let him a room on the promise of Wonka paying her the next day once he dazzles the town with his amazing chocolate.

Wonka stuns the people of Galeries Gourmet, the epicentre of chocolate sales, only to be told by Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), who run the town, that his chocolate is weird and that he cannot sell chocolate there. All the money he makes selling chocolate is confiscated and when Wonka returns to the guest house, he is told by Mrs. Scrubbit that he owes her a fantastic sum of money, for using a bunch of ridiculous things including the stairs, the mini bar (of soap) and the fire!

Wonka (English)
Director: Paul King
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Tom Davis, Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant
Run time: 116 minutes
Storyline: A talented inventor and chocolatier bests a greedy cartel and clergymen with help from a ragtag assembly of friends and a dog named Tiddles

He is put to work in the laundry where he meets others who have been swindled by the treacherous couple, including an accountant, Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter), a comedian, Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher), a telephone operator, Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar), Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell), who knows all about the storm drains in the city, and an orphan, Noodle (Calah Lane).

Wonka realises the cartel is working hand in glove with corrupt clergymen led by Father Julius (Rowan Atkinson), and all records of their wrongdoing are kept in a vault under the church with the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key).

Wonka’s dream is to recreate the feeling he had when his mother (Sally Hawkins) saved cocoa beans and made chocolate for his birthday. His mother fell sick and passed, but promised to be with him when he shared chocolate with the world. Determined to make his dream come true, Wonka and his friends try to outwit the cartel, clergy and Scrubbit.

After many misadventures and mishaps which include a giraffe and Tiddles, the watchdog that is put to work to do the laundry, the good guys triumph while the wicked get their just chocolate desserts. There is singing and dancing, and tons of chocolate in this sweet, old-fashioned musical comedy. Wonka does not need to start with turning the pages of a book and “once upon a time” as each frame of the Paul King (Paddington, Paddington 2) helmed film exudes an enchanting storybookish-ness.

All the cast, starting from Chalamet and Colman to Atkinson and Key, bring their A-game to the screen. And we must not forget the little orange-faced, green-haired 18-inch Oompa-Loompa, Lofty, played with such panache by Hugh Grant. This is a movie that reminds you that life is indeed a box of chocolates, and you never know which one of them will have that golden ticket straight to your heart. Yum.

Wonka is currently running in theatres

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