It’s a good year for the late Roald Dahl. Last fall, Wes Anderson published four short films based on his short stories, and now none other than Paul King (Paddington) delves into the wonderful world of Willy Wonka. We travel back in time, to the period before the chocolate factory, and meet a young Willy, played by Timothée Chalamet.
Nod to Gene Wilder
Although part of the magic of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story lies in the mysterious background of the chocolate maker, the story of Wonka (2023) surprisingly good. Willy tells something about his childhood and his mother, but a large part of his life, his talents and megalomaniac dreams remain shrouded in a cloud of mystery. Chalamet has Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) excellently studied for its role. The mannerisms, the voices, the twists of words and even the way he climbs stairs: everything is wonderfully recognizable for fans of the original film.
Feast of recognition
King also carefully looked at his predecessor Mel Stuart for the rest of his film. The sets, the decoration, the filming and the music are all full of references. Together with screenwriter Simon Farnaby, they also delved into the work of Roald Dahl, resulting in a story about orphans, mean adults, heart-warming friendships and endless imagination. And musical numbers of course, because where Willy Wonka is, there is music and dance with choreographies to die for.
As we have come to expect from King, his film is full of big names in the most unexpected roles. Sally Hawkins is Mother Wonka, Olivia Colman plays the evil laundromat owner, Keegan-Michael Key is the corrupt police officer, Rowan Atkinson heads hundreds of chocolate-addicted monks, and Hugh Grant takes on the role of an Oompa Loompa. The actors clearly enjoy their roles in this sweet family film and they all play with verve. The story is playful, sincere and full of humor. In the meantime, an exciting story is also being spun out into which you are sucked in, as if through a chocolate whirlpool.
Is it really Roald Dahl? No. And isn’t the story being stretched too much? Maybe a little, but Wonka is more than a prequel. King leaves, as he does Paddington 2 (2017) also showed that a story from a series can also stand alone. The timeless story is well put together, captivates at almost every moment and has all the qualities to become a classic. Wonka is an ode to the outsiders, to caring for the people you love and to working together. A sweet Christmas spirit with a layer of chocolate on top, suitable for viewers of all ages.
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