Review (Scott Mc Cutcheon 06/12/23)

Timothée Chalamet has some large shoes to fill as he steps into the role of Willy Wonka. A role made famous by Gene Wilder who starred as the famous chocolatier in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which itself was based on the novel by Roald Dahl.

Directed by Paul King, writer/director of the “Paddington” films, Wonka is an origin story that tries to explain how Wonka became the character made famous in Dahl’s novel.

Set in a fictional city, that bares more than a passing resemblance to Paris, a young Wonka (Chalamet) turns up looking to set up a chocolate shop. However everything doesn’t go smoothly for Wonka as, as in a nod to the original novel, he fails to read the small print whilst booking into a boarding house run by a couple of less than honest characters (Olivia Colman and Tom Davis) and ends up, like others who have fallen foul to the pairs over exorbitant prices, working in the pairs launderette. And as if that’s not bad enough he also has to contend with the town’s chocolate cartel, namely Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), who are determined to put him out of business.

It wouldn’t be a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film without the Oompa-Loompas and the solitary Oompa-Loompas played by Hugh Grant, turns up trying to steal Wonka’s chocolate. The marketing would make you believe that Grant is a central character but like many others in the cast, he only fleetingly appears but when he does he very nearly steals Chalamet’s thunder.

Wonka is a musical and bears more than a passing resemblance to the recent Matilda, which itself is based on a novel by Dahl. Sadly the songs, of which there are nine, are largely forgettable. Using Pure Imagination from the 1971 film in the last scene only highlights the lack of quality as that’s without doubt the song that you’ll remember when you’ve left the cinema.

Chalamet tries his best, he can hold a tune for sure, but never really convinces as the character made famous by Wilder. Wilder’s Wonka had an edge about him, he was abrupt and worse of all didn’t really have time for children, or badly behaved ones anyway. Perhaps in some future sequel we’ll find out how he becomes the crotchety chocolate factory owner.

Wonka is beautiful to look at but lacks the sparkle to make it great. A bit like looking at a beautiful chocolate cake that turns out to be bland when tasted.



Director: David Heyman
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins

UK/US Release: Cinemas 8th December 2023