‘Wonka’ a tad too sweet

Timothée Chalamet follows in the footsteps of Johnny Depp and Gene Wilder as he dons the top hat of everyone’s favourite chocolatier in director Paul King’s ‘Wonka’ (2023).

Not as nutty as the Depp iteration and less poignant than Wilder’s edgily iconic embodiment, Chalamet’s Willy Wonka is an illiterate, wide-eyed and yet wildly talented entrepreneur with big chocolate dreams in-between fun song and dance numbers.

Having scoured the world for the best cocoa beans and the oddest of ingredients, Willy alights in a quaint European city hoping to open a chocolate shop at the Galeries Gourmet.

The penniless young Willy soon finds out how sour the chocolate business can be, as famed chocolatiers Slugworth, Prodnose and Fickelgruber attempt to foil his plans with the help of a chocaholic cop whose greedy, bumbling and idiotic conception feels dated and fatphobic.

This misstep aside, ‘Wonka’ is actually fun for the whole family, if not a tad too sweet.

Frothy and fabulous in its candy-coloured production design and somewhat Dickensian in its cast of indentured boarders (Willy included) working off a night or two’s sleep in the nasty Ms Scrubbit’s lodgings, ‘Wonka’ is an old school musical with a syrupy centre in the form of the love Willy has for his mother, as well as the friendship between Willy and an orphan named Noodle, played endearingly by Calah Lane.

The film also features a star-studded and wonderful extended cast of Olivia Colman, Paterson Joseph, Keegan-Michael Key, Sally Hawkins, Natasha Rothwell, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Matt Lucas, Matthew Baynton and an orange-and-green Hugh Grant.

While fans of the original may long for a more nuanced portrayal of Willy Wonka, those indifferent to Wilder’s legendary and finely calibrated performance will be thoroughly charmed by Chalamet as his character struggles to read the fine print, extols the virtues of his treats through song, battles chocolate cartels and tries to catch an Oompa Loompa red-handed.

A sweet story of how Willy Wonka of the beloved books and films came to be, but lacking the moment that marks his descent into the zany, King’s film suffices as a feel-good origin story of Willy’s affinity for chocolate and his early rise to renowned chocolatier.

– martha@namibian.com.na; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com

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