WONKA Provides Light and Wholehearted Entertainment For Families

From filmmaker Paul King, the acclaimed director who helmed the movies Paddington and Paddington 2, comes a movie musical that envisions the humble beginnings of literature’s and cinema’s most celebrated Candy Man. Working with Simon Farnaby on the screenplay, King delivers a movie which beautifully captures the lovable and magical spirit of the Willy Wonka character but stays away from his darker, more devilish side. The result is an absolutely delightful movie full of colorful world-building, rousing musical numbers, and a heartfelt message about greed and how it corrupts our world.

Timothée Chalamet stars as Willy Wonka, a bright-eyed and optimistic inventor, magician, and aspiring chocolatier. With a minimal amount of money, a suitcase full of ingenious devices, the clothes on his back, and some wild and exciting ideas for chocolate and candy, Wonka arrives in a small but vibrant European community in hopes of changing the world of confections, how people enjoy them, and how they can change peoples lives. Unfortunately, the naive and good-hearted young man gets conned from his money by the town’s opportunistic folk and becomes indebted to some conniving clothing launderers (Olivia Colman, Tom Davis).

Forced into indentured servitude, Willy must use his intelligence and wits to escape his dismal day job and take the candy world by storm. However, the corrupt Big Three chocolatiers of the town led by Arthur Slugsworth (Paterson Joseph) plot and scheme to completely derail Wonka’s plans.

Though not as remarkable as his Paddington movies, Paul King still delivers a film that comes very close to the spirit and heart of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie released in 1971. I had a great time with this movie and relished in its childlike joy and wonderment that makes the original film so well-loved. As I previously stated, the movie never gets too dark like the 1971 movie occasionally does, nor is it as bizarre and disturbing as Tim Burton’s take on the material. This prequel is appropriate for audiences of all ages and especially enjoyable for adults who are fond of the Gene Wilder movie.

As far as the cast is concerned, everyone plays their part well. Chalamet brings much boyish charm to his take on Willy Wonka. His energy is perfect, and his singing is not bad. I wouldn’t say he is a great singer but good enough. He does a fantastic job interpreting Wonka as a more green, optimistic, and not wholly jaded man who dreams big and has the talents to make dreams come true.

Calah Lane brings much heart to her role as orphan Noodle, another laundry employee who quickly gravitates towards Wonka’s ingenuity and hopefulness. She becomes his assistant and closest confidant, who wants Willy to succeed. As an often hilarious source of silly comedy, Keegan-Michael Key is highly enjoyable as the corrupt Chief-of-Police whose weakness for chocolate makes him a puppet for the “Chocolate Cartel.” The movie also features entertaining performances by Matt Lucas, Patterson Joseph, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Olivia Colman, and Rowan Atkinson. Hugh Grant is an absolute riot as an Oompa Loompa out to steal Willy’s chocolate candies.

Wonka opens in theaters this weekend and is a movie I highly recommend as wonderous and delightful entertainment for families needing to take a break from holiday festivities this year. It is worth full-priced or matinee tickets.

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