REVIEW: Wonka - an instant classic that will charm for years to come
You can moan all you like that the new Wonka film just hasn’t got that unsettling sinisterness that makes Wonka Wonka and properly Dahl. But it really doesn’t matter. The point is that the film is an absolute delight from the first moment to the last, a film that you really don’t want to end, a film that you will be planning to see again before you’ve even left the cinema.
It’s the perfect family Christmas film, an instant classic that will charm for years to come – the perfect mix of great performances, rather bonkers story, the nicest, most important of messages and a super-abundance of lovely moments, all delivered with wit and the most remarkable imagination.
It’s the back story to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tale we all know and love, the story of how Wonka started out in the business. Presumably at some point we might get the middle bit, the story of how he became the rather forbidding, rather cruel character that Roald Dahl actually invented in the original. But for the moment, he’s a total charmer, perfectly played by Timothée Chalamet as a dreamer trying to realise his mother’s vision, an optimist who spreads joy around him – even when he very quickly gets held effectively hostage in an underground laundry by the best villains of the piece, the ghastly Bleacher and Mrs Scrubbit, fabulous comic performances from Tom Davis and Olivia Colman respectively – vaguely Sweeney Todd-ish, completely foul
And it’s there that Wonka meets the fellow prisoners who will end up becoming his great allies, not least Noodle, the apparent orphan girl who’s known nothing but thankless drudge her entire life long. It’s a wonderful performance from Calah Lane, possibly, quite possibly, the best in the entire movie. She gets the vulnerability; she gets the spirit; and she completely gets you on side as she eggs Wonka on to fulfil his chocolate-making ambitions. For A Moment, her duet with Wonka on the night-time rooftops, is utterly magical…. possibly the highpoint of the whole film.
Standing in the way of them, though, is the cartel of chocolate makers – Matt Lucas, Paterson Joseph and Matthew Baynton – a triumvirate who will stop at nothing to thwart Wonka’s choccy plans. They combine beautifully – dragging in great work from Keegan-Michael Key as the corrupt Chief of Police and a lovely cameo from Rowan Atkinson as a chocolate-sinning priest.
It's all great fun. It all looks absolutely beautiful, and the new songs are great too in a story which is endlessly inventive – a giraffe in a cathedral, well there’s a thing – and never drops its pace as it steers us towards the most touching of conclusions, setting everything up nicely for the Wonka story we’re more familiar with. Oh and Hugh Grant too. Hilarious. The icing on an already delicious cake.
It’s made by the Paddington creative team, and just as everyone is saying, arguably the film is much more Paddington than it is truly Dahl, but frankly that’s a compliment – and the end result is unbeatable, a far better film than any of the other Wonka outings, instantly in at number one.
Now when can I see it again?!