Timothee Chalamet tips his hat as Wonka

I Can’t Believe I Liked ‘Wonka’

After watching the trailers for Wonka, I wasn’t expecting much from the movie. Turns out it’s a treat for everyone.

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I grew up watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). To be honest, I can’t recall the first time I watched it. It’s just one of those things that is a part of me. Since childhood, it’s been one of my favorite movies. As a kid, I thought it would be lovely to grow up and marry Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and live happily ever after in our candy factory. We could spend the day floating down a chocolate river. Plus, we could sing fun songs with the Ooompa Loompas. Wonka himself was just the right mix of odd, sarcastic, and charming. That dream didn’t come true, but I still love to watch the movie.

When I heard Timothée Chalamet was teaming up with writer/director Paul King (known for Paddington), I wasn’t excited. After the abysmal 2005 remake of Willy Wonka, I just thought it better they leave the candy man alone. This movie would be different, a story about a younger version of Wonka trying to make his fortune. I adore Chalamet, so I was willing to give it a go. Then they released those early behind-the-scenes photos of Chalamet looking like Gonzo from The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Yes, that is my favorite Christmas movie and Gonzo is one of the few dateable Muppets, but it just added to my anxiety about Wonka. The trailers finally came out a few months ago to show more of the movie. However, those cuts, at least to me, made the movie look like an unfunny and terrible mess.

Wonka is surprisingly good

With all of this in mind, I still went and saw Wonka in the theaters on opening weekend. There aren’t many movies I can take both my kids to in the theater, so we thought it was worth a try. Color me surprised when I, and my entire family, ended up loving Wonka. Once Chalamet opened his mouth and started singing, I was hooked. No one told me this was a musical! The song the villainous Chocolate Cartel—Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton)—performs is unexpected and amazing.

Chalamet is fantastic as a young Willy Wonka. Even his imperfect singing voice fits the character perfectly. He’s full of hope, charisma, and a dream to make everyone feel a bit of his happiness as a child. Of course, the only way to share that is through chocolate like his mom would make for him. Arriving in the big city, ready to make his fortune, Wonka is woefully naïve and unprepared for the real world. After being taken advantage of, he finds true friends who know the pain of being duped. Together, with most of the brains coming from the young girl Noodle (Calah Lane), they free themselves and make Wonka’s dreams come true.

It fits well as the prequel to the 1971 Willy Wonka film. The creatives of Wonka worked in many connections to the other movie, so it felt accurate. This young and optimistic Willy could easily turn into the eccentric recluse we see in Willy Wonka. He’s trusting to a fault, and after having people continuously take advantage of him, it is believable that he would just shut the world out to make candy. Wonka surprised me by being heartfelt, funny, and whimsical. Just believe that the candy man can make the world taste good.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.