'Wonka' a delightful origin story

With the new musical 'Wonka,' we take a trip into the backstory of the famous cholateer and see how he built his empire.
Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant star in Wonka.
Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant star in Wonka. /

Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen the story of Willy Wonka told and enjoyed by audiences multiple times. It was originally in 1971 with Gene Wilder in the role. Then, in the early 2000s, Johnny Depp put his spin on the master of chocolate.

Now, Roald Dahl’s classic character comes to life again, this time inhabited by Timothee Chalamet. This time we meet the master before he owned a factory and sent out golden tickets to local children. This Wonka is an upstart who is trying to build a chocolate empire to fulfill a promise made to his mother (Sally Hawkins).

As we meet Wonka, he’s finishing his time as a cook on a ship. Now he’s on shore and looking to achieve his dreams. But he quickly runs into issues. The locals who run the chocolate trade lean on the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) to cap Wonka’s sales and leave him without any money.

Wonka thinks he’s found some kindness and a room to stay at a local laundry and inn, but the innkeeper (Olivia Coleman) is a schemer. Once Wonka signs, he’s indebted and forced to work in the laundry with others (Jim Carter, Natasha Rothwell, Rich Fulcher, and Rakhee Thakrar) who made the same mistake. They are aided by an orphan, Noodle (Calah Lane), who is also in debt and in service.

But together, the six form a partnership and hatch a scheme to help Wonka launch his chocolate empire as a means of escaping their servitude. Can they get it done? Can Wonka share his chocolate—and his gift—with the world?

Is Wonka worth the trip to the theaters?

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this film. I love the original, which is one of my favorite films of the 1970s. Wilder is great in the lead role, too. I wasn’t sure we needed another journey into the world of Willy Wonka.

I was wrong. This film is a delight. The costumes and set pieces hum. The music—this version is a full-blown musical with lavish production numbers—are wonderful. And Chalamet delivers what might be his most engaging performance to date. It’s a beautiful tale, full of heart, fun, and a perfect experience for the whole family.

There are also plenty of nods to the original story, including the appearance of Hugh Grant as an Oompa-Loompa. Grant may not have enjoyed the role, but he is nothing short of a delight. Whether it’s his comedic timing or his musical numbers, each scene he’s in is enhanced. He plays off Chalamet beautifully as well.

I had a lot of fun with Wonka, which has a great cast, a great look, and a heart-warming story to tell. It’s worth checking out this holiday season.

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