I attended a free screening in exchange for this honest Wonka review.
WONKA is a musical fantasy major motion picture from Warner Bros. Pictures. Rated PG, it’s a family-friendly movie with some thematic elements. The amazing cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Keegan-Michael Key, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Mathew Baynton, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carter, Olivia Colman, and Hugh Grant. It’s directed by Paul King. Based on the book, it’s an original story and screenplay by King and Simon Farnaby.
WONKA is what I would call the origin story of Willy Wonka, the main adult character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. More than a prequel, its focus is on Wonka, himself, and his dreams of opening a chocolate shop and changing the world with chocolate.
WONKA begins with Wonka ending his seven years of working on a ship to earn money needed to set his dream into reality. As he embarks in a new city, he goes through his money quickly through generosity, happenstance, and a fine.
He has found the perfect location for the shop he has dreamed of opening since childhood, learning his chocolate-making magic from his mom. He carries what appears to be luggage, but it is actually the tools of his trade, a mini magical factory in a valise, and his hat and trademark purply suit, plus his other bag, are part of his illusions and sleight of hand. He makes the most incredible chocolate concoctions from almost nothing.
Suddenly without anything, he is tricked into laundry servitude until his debt is paid. Befriending the others who have also been outwitted in the same way, Wonka makes it his mission to escape, repay the debt, and bring the others with him. But first, he needs a plan. And ingredients.
With the help of Noodle, he gets the ingredients he needs, and puts on a fantastical chocolate show in the area where he wants to open his emporium. Unfortunately, there is a group of nefarious businessmen who control the chocolate business in town, and they stop him with help from the chief of police, a man who is influenced by chocolate.
While they manage to elude being arrested, they need a new idea, because people are in love with his chocolate and its amazing properties.
With the help of their fellow workers, Wonka manages to make enough money to open a shop of the wildest chocolate dreams. A fantasy-filled chocolate emporium of delights, colors, and imagination. Unbeknownst to them, the ingredients have been tainted, and mayhem ensues.
An Oompa-Lumpa appears, and he is not happy with Wonka, accusing him of stealing a large portion of the cocoa beans from their land. He provides extra entertainment and nearly steals several scenes in the movie.
As Wonka and his friends make plans to free the chocolate held by the questionable businessmen, they create an elaborate scheme of majestic proportions. Because, chocolate should be available for everyone.
Throughout the movie, Wonka has flashbacks to childhood with his mother, and their plans to share chocolate with the world. In the end, secrets are revealed, and a plan is in place for the future.
The movie is an emotional rollercoaster of joy and elation, reflection, dreams, and more with Wonka’s magical touch, fantasy, and chocolate. Timothée Chalamet shines in the role of Wonka. The incredible music score is a mix of familiar and new, and we are always reminded that “…the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible.”
This holiday season, treat yourself to WONKA, and don’t forget some chocolate, because this is an entertaining family movie full of heart, magic, friendship, and the secret ingredient known to those who believe in dreams.
Wonka arrives in theaters December 15, 2023.