Wonka’s Chocolatey Backstory is a Breath of Fresh Air

By: Russ Matthews

Roald Dahl has given families some of the most significant characters in literary and cinematic history.

Yet, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) has moved into the category of icon status that has managed to span multiple generations. Audiences can debate which film adaptation of the classic children’s novel would be the best. In the meantime, get ready, now there is a new kid on the chocolate block. Director Paul King (Paddington 1 & 2), along with screenwriter/actor Simon Farnaby (The Phantom of the Open), take us back to the origin story of Willy, the Oompa Loompas (Hugh Grant), and how the famous chocolate factory came to life.

Considered a companion piece to the 1971 film version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, viewers are taken back to when the younger chocolate aficionado and magician first appears on the scene. As he attempts to make his dream of a chocolate shop within the Galeries Gourmet a reality, Willy discovers that the world is not fully prepared for his imaginative and magical creations. Especially the potential competing chocolate houses of Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber, who do all they can to keep the innovative candy man from introducing his chocolate to the public. More challenges come as he fails to pay his rent in his new residence. This allows his landlord, Ms Scrubbit (Olivia Coleman), to force the young man into forced servitude cleaning laundry alongside Noodle (Calah Lane), accountant Abacus (Jim Carter), plumber Piper (Natasha Rothwell), comedian Larry (Rich Fulcher), and telephone operator Lottie (Rakhee Thakrar).

As the opposition mounts and the police pursue the chocolatier to stop him from succeeding, this unlikely lot of friends band together to build this world of imagination and fulfil all of their dreams.

Wonka Movie Stills

What was wonderful about this film is how it offers families the very thing they have been looking for in holiday entertainment. Wonka provides terrific characters, fantastic writing, and beautiful musical numbers that will entertain fans of the legendary Roald Dahl character and those just being introduced to his imaginative world.

Timothée Chalamet embodied the younger version of Willy with a joyful vigour and added a new dimension of innocence and humility to this character. Surprisingly, his musical prowess matched his abilities to portray this believed literary figure. Yet, this film’s talent pool dives deep into the screenplay’s sweet, sweet chocolate as each actor perfectly represents their role and added something to the overall storyline. Calah Lane was a stand-out as the orphan, Noodle, and it is her storyline that brings the emotional sugar hit needed for this adventure. Yet, the role of scene stealer belongs to Hugh Grant as the Oompa Loompa, Lofty. He has said he had a difficult time with the filming process of the orange-skinned creature. Still, it was worth the effort as he saved many scenes and delivered a comedic element that lifted this film from good to great.

If there were any knocks on this production, it would have to be the overall length and some darker elements that make this better for children over five. Two hours is not too long for most viewers, but the younger set will struggle during some of the more dramatic scenes. Also, the scarier elements were not to the level of typical Roald Dahl storylines, but they may be a bit much for the little ones. Yet, none of these criticisms should deter families from getting out to the theatres to see this beautiful film. Wonka is the best film this holiday season and may be one of the year’s best films too. Well done to King, Chalamet, and company for providing audiences with an entertaining and encouraging story to finish this challenging year at the cinema.

What do parents need to know about Wonka?

Wonka Movie Stills

‘Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination, Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination.’

What a breath of fresh air in the world of family films; there are no agendas, few objectionable scenes, and nothing would hinder Reel Dialogue from recommending this movie. The only pushback on this production would be the length and scarier elements that may make this difficult for young ones to sit through. Besides these few challenges, this film is worth seeing and enjoying together as a family during this holiday season.

Another aspect of this film that is ideal for parents to see with their children is the plethora of discussion points. There are opportunities for dialogue on topics such as family, dreams, imagination, ethics, and faith. Take your pick; you cannot go wrong with the messaging of this film or the potential opportunities to talk with your children after seeing this on the big screen.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. – Ephesians 3:20

If you would like to discuss the topic of imagination and God, reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.