Wonka | Review by: Benjamin Garrett
“Like a kid in a candy store” - a common saying, but one that best describes how I felt as the theatre lights dimmed and I indulged in Paul King’s “Wonka”. This prequel is a cinematic delight, both old-fashioned and modern, and bound to bring out your inner child again.
Comparisons will be made to the 1971 original, in terms of quality, the music and of course Gene Wilder’s legendary performance as Willy Wonka. King pays wonderful homage to Roald Dahl’s source material and Mel Stuart’s film, but truly makes this movie his own. It connects in a way that’ll satisfy longtime fans, but also stands tall as its own story. It’s clear that King understands and respects this franchise, but he never gets hung up on trying to emulate someone else’s work.
I’ll admit, I had my concerns with the casting of Timothée Chalamet as such a beloved character. He’s a great actor, but I didn’t believe he could pull off the unhinged enthusiasm needed to embody Willy Wonka. While Gene Wilder’s performance remains unrivalled, Chalamet makes the character his own, and I really believed him as a young Wonka getting his start in the chocolatier business. He’s surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast, including the always excellent Olivia Colman, and a star-making breakout performance by the young Calah Lane.
The original songs are energetic, magical and incredibly catchy. I’ve been listening to a handful of them on repeat for the past few days. The musical numbers work seamlessly into the narrative and add so much creativity to the storytelling. The choreography, the playful twist on word-play and Joby Talbot’s whimsical score make every musical moment memorable. Don’t worry, there are some iconic songs from the 1971 film included here too. Most notably a beautifully placed rendition of “Imagination” that gave me chills.
Do you ever catch yourself smiling without realizing it? It happened to me countless times during Wonka. Paul King has crafted a thoughtful, inspired and all around magical film that’s a worthy adaptation to Dahl’s novel, and a wonderful companion piece to the original film. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Review by: Benjamin Garrett
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