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The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Simple and excessively sweet, ‘Wonka’ doesn’t live up to earlier films

Warner Bros. Pictures
A section from a ‘Wonka’ movie poster featuring Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka.

Widely anticipated by Roald Dahl fans, chocolate addicts, and Chalamet followers alike, Wonka was welcomed this winter as a cheerful family film. The third adaptation of Dahl’s popular children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, attracted audiences in swarms this holiday season, dominating the box office and ending 2023 at number 1 for the past New Year’s weekend.

Intended as a companion to the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), Wonka, released Dec. 15, follows chocolatier Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) on his quest to spread the joy of sweets and earn a living along the way. Serving as a prequel to the novel and 1971 movie, Wonka takes a deep dive into the humble beginnings of Willy Wonka prior to his achievements as the famous candy-maker.

Over the course of the movie, Wonka, a young entrepreneur filled with optimism, endless imagination, and a deep love for all things sweet, struggles to establish his chocolate business. In an industry controlled by the vicious “Chocolate Cartel” (Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, and Mathew Baynton) and being bound to work for boarding house owner Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman), Wonka meets great adversity and various setbacks. However, with perseverance and the help of Mrs. Scrubitt’s other captives, Wonka is able to achieve his dream, becoming a massive hit. Through his adventures, Wonka learns the importance of friendship and that “It’s not the chocolate that matters. It’s the people you share it with.”

With the popularity of both the 1971 musical film and Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), this recent addition had large shoes to fill. Many moviegoers were eager to see if fashion icon Timothée Chalamet, known for roles in films Call Me by Your Name (2017) and Dune (2021), would experience similar success in his reprise of Willy Wonka. While Chalamet portrays an eccentric Wonka in an interesting manner, the movie as a whole ultimately has difficulty living up to the high standards set by the previous movies.

A major issue with this most recent release is the lack of a compelling storyline. When compared to the original novel and earlier films, this movie has lost the mysterious and darker undertones that had initially attracted such a wide age group. While Chalamet plays a wonderfully wacky Wonka, both the plot and his rendition lack the sinister demeanor that made the chocolatier so intriguing in the first place. Additionally, the absence of a strong character arc for the nearly flawless Willy Wonka results in an unsatisfactory ending and unrelatable title character.

While Wonka’s altered personality may appeal to children, it gives the film an overly sugary taste, unimpressive to the older audiences in need of a darker story. This, along with the mediocre and largely unnecessary music and underdeveloped subplots, detracts greatly from the quality of the movie.

Despite the major flaws in the plot and music, the film includes several appealing elements that make an otherwise boring movie at times very enjoyable. Chalamet brings personality and humor to his role, a theme continued by other actors including an appearance by Rowan Atkinson, known for his role as Mr. Bean, as a chocolate-addicted priest. The often silly plot is at times cringeworthy, however, it successfully raises smiles and laughter from the audience. 

Another highlight of the film is Hugh Grant’s stellar performance as Lofty, the chocolate-stealing Oompa Loompa. While the role is small, Grant’s acting is impressive and shines above many of the other characters. Styled similarly to the Oompa Loompas of the 1971 film, the character brings nostalgia and charm to this new addition. Unfortunately, this subplot is incredibly short and does not play a major role in the movie, leaving the viewers unhappy with yet another aspect of the storyline.

In regards to cinematography, the visuals are very well done. Special effects appear to hold the magic of Willy Wonka himself and both the costuming and settings provide a vintage quality to the production. These aspects greatly enhance the movie and all watchers are certain to want to put on their own top hat and take a step into Wonka’s “world of imagination.”

With the film’s both good and bad elements, opinions of Wonka‘s overall quality can vary greatly between viewers with different preferences. Although the movie lacks the mystery and interesting plotline that would be compelling to members of older audiences, its joy and simplicity may appeal greatly to children. While the film is mostly unsuitable for older audiences, the lightness of the movie does offer a break from the more heavy and thought-provoking films of 2023.

For these reasons, while not ideal for all audiences, Wonka is well-suited for families and everyone needing to grab some chocolate, relax in a movie theater recliner and take a journey through the sugary world of Willy Wonka.


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    Kylie jennerJan 16, 2024 at 10:28 am

    I <3 timothee chalamet