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Film Review: Wonka

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Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in “Wonka” (2024).

Have you ever wanted to see the origins of the greatest chocolate maker of all time? No? Well, me neither, but that’s not going to stop Hollywood and their never-ending search for original stories to endlessly milk. Screw innovation and creating original content, just plaster an origin story to any marketable character and you got yourself a hit. Because nothing screams pure imagination than remakes and unnecessary prequels!

From the creators of Paddington 1 & 2, the story follows a young Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) and his quest to buy a store in order to make the best chocolate the world has ever seen. Alongside him is a poor orphan named Noodle (Calah Lane) who wants to look for her mother and find purpose in an otherwise hopeless life. It won’t be easy, though, as they’ll be against the Chocolate Cartel and their desire to crush any competition that stands in their way.

Pessimistic opening aside, the movie was admittedly a lot more enjoyable than I initially thought. The film is honest about what it’s trying to pull and never feels the need to explain every minutia of Wonka’s story. Yes, there are some callbacks to the original film, but it never indulges on them as if it was some sort of celebrity cameo. It feels like they’re trying to create a new story for the character instead of simply rehashing ideas from the original film. If you only watched Wonka, you would still understand the characters and fantastical world they live in.

The most controversial opinions that I’ve seen about the film would be Chalamet’s performance as Willy and I can see why. How do you follow the act of the late Gene Wilder and his all-time performance? While Chalamet gives an admirable attempt at revitalizing the eccentric mad man, it never feels genuine. Instead of feeling like Wilder, he just feels like a guy giving their best impressions of a beloved character. He dresses the part, moves like the part, but never acts the part. He feels more like Johnny Depp’s performance than Wilder’s even though Wilder’s performance is the main inspiration. It’s not to say he was bad in the movie, but I was never convinced that Chalamet was just a younger version of Gene Wilder.

Everyone in the cast was fine, but it was nothing exceptional. I would say that Calah Lane gave an impressive job considering this is her first big film. She gave life to an otherwise simple character. Another highlight of the film would be the odd-looking Oompa Loompa played by Hugh Grant. Not because he was good in the film, mind you, but because the CGI was incredibly inconsistent. At some points, the connection between the face and the body looked pretty seamless, but then it would look like Hugh Grant had a stroke. The only thing I can compare this
to would be the CGI for Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was hilariously bad, but entertaining, nonetheless.

Make no mistake, this film is a musical through and through. There’s a plethora of songs and dance sequences that are supposed to light up your heart. It sometimes works, and it sometimes doesn’t. The choreography is great (the one in the zoo is beautiful), but a lot of the songs are either forgettable or ruined by noticeable auto tune. Most of Chalamet’s songs are terribly dubbed and from the very first song you can tell his voice is tuned. I’m not against auto tune, but I shouldn’t be able to hear it in the very first song of the film.

The movie might not be close to the greatness of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, but you can tell it was made by people who genuinely loved the source material. There were some fun gags that were sprinkled throughout the story, some of the camera work was interesting, and it never felt half baked like Aladdin or The Little Mermaid.

However, the film was simply unnecessary. There was nothing in the film that justified creating an entire prequel of a character that didn’t need one. Maybe they will make an origin story of the Oompa Loompas because nothing can be ambiguous, right? 2.5/5.

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