REVIEW: Wonka (2023)

Wonka is a rebootquel of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and, to a lesser extent, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I like the Gene Wilder-led classic well enough, but I don’t think I ever watched the Tim Burton movie all the way through. When Wonka was announced, I was frankly annoyed. Not because I’m a huge fan and don’t want to see Willy Wonka ruined; more so because I’m exhausted by the constant rebooting, remaking, and sequels. I know this is hardly a new or unique viewpoint, but I’ve reached burnout. Unless you can add to the original story in some way, just leave it alone. However, Wonka is also directed by Paul King, who brought us the delightful Paddington duology. Paddington’s adoptive mother, Sally Hawkins, also portrays Wonka’s late mother here. Sometimes, a connection like this is enough to excite me for a movie, but I just didn’t know what to make of Wonka before watching it. Let’s find out what it’s all about. 

Wonka follows a young and naïve Willy (Timothée Chalamet) as he ventures into the big city to sell chocolate. However, there’s a problem: the “chocolate cartel” of three major companies won’t allow any competition. In trying to establish himself, Willy is tricked into indentured servitude alongside a motley crew of unfortunates with their own sad stories. Willy employs his new housemates in a grand scheme to make it big as a chocolatier and escape his life of servitude. 

The two biggest factors working in Wonka’s favor are its cast and soundtrack. Timothée Chalamet is delightful as Willy, the perfect mixture of ingenuity and naïve optimism. He’s just dumb enough to explain some of the choices he makes without calling his creativity into question. He’s not stupid, but he isn’t street-smart, either. I suppose that makes sense, as this version grew up on a boat, not in city streets. Calah Lane is endearing as Noodle, Willy’s new best friend. Noodle is a little girl who was taken in by people who only wanted to mistreat her. She dreams of reuniting with her mother if she’s alive. Despite her age, Noodle is more grounded than Willy and has more realistic expectations. She brings common sense to his operation. Jim Carter plays Abacus Crunch, a former accountant who can run Willy’s books. There are more people trapped in these circumstances who join Willy, but you get the point. Olivia Colman, Keegan Michael-Key, and Rowan Atkinson round out the supporting cast as (some of the) villains. My favorite performance in the film probably comes from Hugh Grant as a disgruntled Oompa-Loompa. He’s a supporting player, appearing sporadically in the second half of the movie or so. But he’s hysterical! I never cared about romantic lead Hugh Grant; that type of story and character doesn’t appeal to me. But the new comedian Hugh Grant rocks! I’ve loved him in similar roles in Dungeons and DragonsGlass Onion, and King’s own Paddington 2. Further back, he was great in About a Boy. Playing the Oompa-Loompa as the straight man against Willy’s whimsy is an odd choice that pays off in spades. 

Wonka review

Wonka’s original music is by Joby Talbot, with emphasis on original. Songs and leitmotifs from the original movie come back throughout Wonka, but new songs and an original score keep things fresh. I love big, bombastic musicals, but I will be honest with you; for whatever reason, I was ready to hate the new music in Wonka. A few minutes in, I was just not feeling it. But this proved to be one of the best aspects of Wonka, keeping the film jaunting along through triumphs and low points alike. My favorite of the new songs is “For a Moment,” a duet between Willy and Noodle. It’s just very sweet, and Chalamet and Lane sound great together. 

However, Wonka is far from a perfect movie. The plot itself feels a little boring to me; the characters and music carry the picture and help prevent boredom. I also didn’t connect with his mother in the flashbacks. That’s a personal thing, and I’d love to know if this played better for others. I think Wonka has too many villains to almost humorous effect, and finally, most of the humor didn’t work for me. Paddington is a family movie, but Wonka feels like a kids movie to me. Both Paddington movies offer plenty to hook adults, but I can’t imagine many single adults seeing Wonka. I don’t know how well some things, like the villains, will hold up to rewatches. 

Wonka Review

The comedy is the biggest issue of these for me. Wonka’s screenplay can be childish at times, reaching for the low-hanging fruit. A few jokes actually made me roll my eyes, like the police chief getting increasingly fat throughout the movie. Sometimes, the film’s editing messes up jokes that may have been funny. They cut away too fast or linger on a shot too long. I don’t know if Wonka’s production was rushed, but I never had this problem with the Paddington films. 

Wonka is interested in class strife and the entrepreneurial spirit to an extent, but as I said, this is a kids movie. The emotional and intellectual sides of Wonka feel very surface-level. For this reason, the film doesn’t resonate with me as well as I think it may for others. Wonka seems driven by spectacle and beholden to show some amount of thoughtfulness. On the other hand, I always felt like Paddington used special effects and charm to tell a thoughtful story. 

Wonka Review

Wonka is a fun enough film for the holidays, especially if you have kids or love musicals. Paul King’s latest offering is inventive, fast-paced and endearing enough to mask some lesser plotting and humor. If you’re a single adult, I might not recommend Wonka to you, but my husband liked it more than I did, so maybe you’ll love it if you decide to check it out.

Wonka (2023)

Plot - 4
Acting - 10
Music/Sound - 8
Direction/Editing - 6
Character Development - 6



Wonka has a lot of problems. It's hampered by silly jokes and a thin plot, but the whimsy and likable performances make up for a lot.

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