Willy Wonka returns to the big screen with the origin of his chocolate obsession. He dreams of opening a chocolate store where he can create a thriving business. Upon his arrival, he encounters The Chocolate Cartel, intent on shutting down chocolate competition in the area. Willy must band together with his underdog crew to give the world his chocolate by any means necessary.
“Wonka” manages to achieve the goal it sets out to, which is creating family fun. The story is fairly straightforward, where a spunky young man has dreams he wants to fulfill. But to overcome those wanting to take him down, he must use those close to him in order to be successful. But the story is told in a way that embraces the wonkiness of the Wonka lore while crafting a family friendly environment. It also abandons the darker elements of the original film for a more playful tone. For me, I enjoyed the fresh perspective. It allows “Wonka” to stand on its own two feet, creating a story that pays homage to the original while bringing us something fresh.
I also enjoyed that “Wonka” doesn’t try to overcomplicate the story. It takes themes of greed, creativity, and entrepreneurship and presents them in a whimsical way. There is a playful spirit in which The Chocolate Cartel are portrayed. They are actually quite funny at times, where poking fun rather than mean-spirited finger pointing is the approach. That’s the case with each character too. They all have qualities that relate to general audiences. Timotheé Chalamet jumps into the role of Wonka with confidence and enthusiasm. He captures the drive and enthusiasm of the character before his darker qualities come to the surface. I’ll admit the scenes where he’s asked to be bombastic aren’t the most convincing, the rest of his performance is very upbeat.
The world building in the film is impressive. From the crazy candy designs to the illustrious factory he builds, everything feels unique and true to the character. But the most enjoyable aspect of “Wonka” is its sense of optimism. The film reminds us that even in a world full of negativity, being kind and generous never goes out of style. Each character in Willy’s circle picks him up when he’s down and vice versa. There is a strong sense of community and friendship. That might be the best thing to take away from “Wonka”.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with “Wonka”, but simplicity works in its favor and against it. Simple works when telling a fun family film for the holidays, but against it when creating something new. The story has many familiar beats that we’ve seen before. For some, it may feel mundane in the approach. A newbie coming to town with big ideas being targeted by the head honchos in charge, only for the newbie to overcome adversity and achieve their goal. Yes, we’ve experienced this many times, and in a similar story structure. It might feel unfulfilling for some that want a profound exploration of the Wonka lore, but others may enjoy the familiar beats of the underdog story.
Some may be surprised to find that the film is very musical. The original was as well, but I wasn’t expecting such an abundance of songs. On that note, none of the musical numbers are particularly memorable. Sure, they’re fun while we’re watching, but I doubt any of the songs will be added to the audience’s playlist.
“Wonka” is a cheery, feel good movie that most audiences will enjoy. The optimism and fantastical nature of the story will make Willy Wonka fans proud while impressing those giving it a casual viewing. While the story doesn’t break any new ground, Timotheé Chalamet delivers enough charisma to make this exploration of the candy world worthwhile. Oh, and don’t forget to stock up on chocolate while watching!