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Wonka

Wonka




Rated PG - for some violence, mild language and thematic elements.
Director: Paul King
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Grant, Paterson Joseph, Olivia Colman, Rowan Atkinson, Tom Davis
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: December 15, 2023
4K UHD Release Date: February 27, 2024 (Amazon.com)


READER RATING:   


Plot Summary

With dreams of opening a shop in a city renowned for its chocolate, a young and poor Willy Wonka discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers. (from IMDB)


Film Review

With studios milking just about any intellectual property they can get their hands on these days, I suppose it shouldn't surprise us to see the beloved Roald Dahl character Willy Wonka being given an origin story. Readers were introduced to the character in 1964's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before Gene Wilder brought him to life in such a memorable way 7 years later in 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It would actually be 34 years before the book would be made into a movie again, in 2005's Tim Burton-directed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which saw Johnny Depp turning in a bizarre performance as Willy Wonka. Now, another 18 years later, Warner Bros. has rebooted the famous chocolatier's story with a brand new origin tale, simply titled Wonka.

Wonka
This time around, we're given a chance to see just how Willy Wonka got his start, with rising star Timothée Chalamet as the title character. While Willy already was this eccentric, recluse factory owner in the 1971 film, here Willy is wide-eyed and filled with hope and wonder. Even when things get pretty dire for the character, he never seems to let cynicism damper his spirits. This might seem like a sort of odd choice for the character, and it actually makes his story arc a bit sadder. In Wonka, Willy is simply a momma's boy who only wants to follow in his late mother's footsteps in making chocolate to bring smiles to people's faces. Oddly enough, his world involves three cartel-like chocolate factory owners who find Wonka's ingenious creations to be some kind of threat to their businesses and livelihood. This frequently throws a wrench into Willy's plans, and we find Wonka in more of a Little Orphan Annie role than one might expect.

In fact, my biggest gripe with Wonka is I hadn't expected Willy to spend a bulk of the story under the thumb of a corrupt innkeeper. Just when you think we might get greater insight into how Willy discovered some of his creative, fantastical concoctions, he's imprisoned in a poor house and forbidden to leave. Sure, this allows Willy to demonstrate some creativity - and whimsy - in order to still try to sell and market his chocolates, but it makes the movie feel more somber and glum than one might have expected. For example, Willy tells tales of traveling the globe to exotic places where he discovered creatures and ingredients that make his chocolates so special... and I couldn't help but wish we were seeing that movie instead.

Wonka
The first trailer footage for Wonka had me facepalming the casting of Chalamet as Willy. It just doesn't seem like a character that fits the actor's style or look (which is nothing against Chalamet at all). Thankfully, I found those reservations to be mostly dismissable, but there were definitely times where Chalamet seemed like he was trying to inject a little more of Jim Carrey's animated deliveries and reactions into his performance. While that works for Carrey, it seems weird for someone who's generally more serious, like Chalamet (and, therefore, appears forced). The supporting cast is fine in their respective roles, but no one really leaps off the screen with scene-stealing performances. If anything, overacting is kind of the norm for characters, like Olivia Colman's yellow-teethed innkeeping villain, Mrs. Scrubitt, and her buffoon of a partner, Bleacher (played by Tom Davis). Even the chocolatier villains feel like cartoon characters, which may make the movie more fun for children and lighten up a gloomy story, but it never feels quite right. If I had to liken the vibe of Wonka to any recent movies, I'd say it comes closest to 2018's Mary Poppins Returns, which was actually far superior in almost every way (or am I to say "practically perfect in every way"?). While the songs were memorable in that Disney musical, they're not so much in this one, as I can't really recall a single note in Wonka, when Mary Poppins Returns had quite a few singable moments.

Wonka
The content is fitting for a PG rating, with really only some mild language appearing in the form of a single "d*mn" and an "Oh L-rd." Some dark violence includes the other chocolate makers trying to kill Willy on a couple occasions, which seemed surprisingly rough for a movie about, well, candy makers. And when Bleacher is tricked into trying to seduce Mrs. Scrubitt, there are some running gags about Bleacher trying to "show some leg" for Mrs. Scrubitt that is more gross-out humor than anything. (The camera even shows his hairy bare thigh close-up in the foreground as he tries to woo her. Really, Warner Bros. no one wants to see that... especially on a big screen.) Ultimately, I guess Wonka still classifies as a family film, but it certainly isn't without its share of suggestive humor and violence.

Maybe there are too many songs, maybe it's a bit too long, and maybe it just doesn't feel whimsical enough, but things don't quite mix perfectly to make Wonka the success it could be. It's certainly not a total loss, don't get me wrong, but nearly a week after I've seen it, mostly the negative aspects of the film are what's sticking out to me as I put fingers to keys to write this up. Maybe repeat viewings will help it sit better, I don't know, but as it is, Wonka is never quite as strong or memorable as either of the book's adaptations (and that 2005 one certainly is an acquired taste), but I might be curious to see an updated version of the original film/book with Chalamet's Wonka at the helm. Then again... do we really need to?

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/21/23)

 

4K UHD Special Features Review


The 4K UHD release of Wonka includes the feature film in 4K UHD and bonus features on disc, along with a digital copy that lets you redeem it from MoviesAnywhere. (There is no Blu-Ray disc packaged with the 4K disc.) Now, on to the Extras...

Wonka in 4K UHD - The colorful, whimsical world of Willy Wonka is just the kind of movie a format like 4K Ultra HD is made for. Wonka looks crisp and vibrant, with the colors really popping in this presentation. If you have the viewing capabilities, this one is just right for the format.

Unwrapping WONKA: Paul King's Vision (12:28) - Director Paul King seems just right to helm a project like this one. With Wonka, it was the first time that the Roald Dahl estate had signed off on a new story being made as part of the Willy Wonka lore. While Wonka is inspired by Dahl's writings, it's a brand new story that was not written by Roald Dahl himself. King expresses his deep fandom for the original book, and how he'd read it so much as a kid that the binding ended up falling apart. King clearly has a big vision for this story, too, as he tackles the new film with a grand scope and in great detail. He even considers this film to be a literal prequel to the Gene Wilder film from the 70's. This segment covers all the characters, casting Hugh Grant as an Oompa Looma, and even setting out to make all the Oompa Loompa's the right size for the first time on screen (in this case, keeping true to Roald's description of them being smaller than the height of a person's knee).

The Whimsical Music of WONKA (6:01) covers the original songs written for the new story. King talks of how he had presented songwriter Neil Hannon with rough ideas for new songs, which Neil proceeded to scrap for his own new songs (of which King expressed were greatly superior to his ideas). Hannon talks about his love for the original movie and writing new songs to fit within the Wonka world. They also talk here about how Timothee learned how to sing stronger and dance for the role, with the crew expressing how impressed they were with Chalamet's work ethic.

Welcome to Wonka Land (10:52) is all about the sets you see in Wonka. The filmmakers actually had the town built from scratch as a set, with great detail all the way down to little items in shops' windows. They designed the town to look like many different European countries and cities, without it landing on one particular one. King talks about how the orientation of the buildings in the town center, with all the major chocolatiers, was inspired by a design he saw in Milan. They then go into detail about the villainous hotel set, and Willy's whimsical chocolate shop.

Hats Off to Wonka (6:47) is about the film's wardrobe design. The costume designer and the cast and crew talk about how impressive the costumes were, the importance of color in the designs, and how crucial Wonka's costume had to be in portraying how Wonka became the Gene Wilder Wonka.

Wonka's Chocolatier (8:51) - This featurette blew my mind. It turns out that real life chocolatier Gabriella Cugno designed all of the chocolates featured in the film. In this segment, she even shows how each featured chocolate was created, which is really incredible. I thought, while watching the film, that the chocolates looked way too perfect to actually be edible, let alone chocolate. But it turns out that each one was designed and created by her, and was in fact edible. She shows us how she made the Hoverchoc's, the Big Night Out, Silver Linings, the Blue Flower, the Giraffe Milk Macaroon, and, lastly, Noodle's Chocolate.

Musical moments - To close the iTunes special features, we have this collection of the songs separated out from the film. You can watch all of them together with a Play All option (totalling 29:54), or you can watch them individually:

  1. Hatful of Dreams (5:34)
  2. You've Never Had Chocolate Like This (Prelude) (1:14)
  3. Scrub Scrub 1 (1:37)
  4. Sweet Tooth (2:07)
  5. Scrub Scrub 2 (2:00)
  6. For a Moment (2:53)
  7. You've Never Had Chocolate Like This (3:50)
  8. Oompa Loompa (0:59)
  9. A World of Your Own (3:32)
  10. Sorry Noodle (0:51)
  11. Oompa Loompa 2 (0:21)
  12. Pure Imagination (3:55)
  13. Oompa Loompa (End Credits 1:00)

- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/25/24)

 

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: Noodle tricks Bleacher into thinking Mrs. Scrubbit likes him, and then tricks her into thinking Bleacher is some kind of aristocrat. With that, Bleacher turns on the attempt at charm and tries to seduce her by wearing shorts that are far too short and show lots of his hairy, bare legs. Later, we see both of them in silk robes, hinting that they have started up a physical, romantic relationship.
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 "d*mn," 1 "Oh L-rd"
. Alcohol/Drugs: None, but some of Willy's candies have a sort of hallucinogenic effects.
. Blood/Gore: None.
. Violence: A police officer shoves Willy's head into a fountain of water twice as he interrogates him. We see Willy's face in distress underwater as he does this; The Oompa Loompa smacks Willy around a bit, and hits him with things; Willy traps the Oompa Loompa in a jar; A store is set on fire and burned down; Two characters are trapped in a vat of chocolate where it is intended for them to drown. We even see the chocolate rise to the top and completely engulf them before they are rescued; A man finds a bomb on a boat that was intended to kill those on board. After he escapes, we see it detonate in the background.

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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