Timothee Chalamet tips his hat as Wonka

It’s Official: If You Like the ‘Paddington’ Movies, You Will Like ‘Wonka’

Loving Paddington and Paddington 2 has long been my “hill to die on” when it comes to film standards. Quite simply, both movies are charming confections that can be consumed anytime, and they’re almost certain to improve your state of mind. Now, Wonka joins the short list of movies in this category.

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I already can’t wait to get another taste. Wonka opened in the United States on December 15, 2023, and it’s climbing viewership charts at a rapid pace. It’s a perfect movie to watch heading into the holidays, filled with all of the things we love most about the Paddington films: whimsy, innocence, quirky characters, and unapologetic magic.

Wonka, which stars Timothée Chalamet as the titular chocolatier, is the third movie based on Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964). The first was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) starring Gene Wilder, and the second was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) starring Johnny Depp.

Olivia Coleman and Timothee Chalamet in Wonka
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

One major reason that Wonka has Paddington-core vibes is the film’s director, Paul King—the man behind both of the adorable bear movies. King shared screenwriting duties with Simon Farnaby, who also co-wrote Paddington 2 … widely considered to be one of the best movies ever made. Yes, ever!

King is notoriously well-liked by cast and crew. During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Chalamet claimed co-star Hugh Grant, who worked with King on both Wonka and Paddington 2, refers to the director as “the human Paddington Bear.” Chalamet went on to say, “Paddington 2 is sort of the perfect movie. I’m super proud of Wonka, but Paddington 2 …” If you’ve seen it, you’ll get it—Paddington 2 really is a perfect movie.

Similarities abound

Watching Wonka instills the same hopeful, optimistic feelings as Paddington. There’s danger, but it’s minor and the stakes are generally low. Nearly all of King’s sets are real and his use of green screens and CGI is as minimal as can be. The movies share the same glow and tint, the same lush costumery and attention to detail, and the same loving gaze that brought Paddington sets to life.

Sally Hawkins blows a kiss in Wonka
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

There are scenes in Wonka that transport us right back to Paddington, including a dreamy rooftop dance set to the original song, “For a Moment,” written by Neil Hannon. There’s also a scene set in a church (Rowan Atkinson plays chocolate-addicted priest Father Julius) that brings us right back to Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) donning a dress for an undercover mission in a cathedral. Then there’s the pivotal final scene in which two characters are left to drown, just like Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) at the end of P2.

The characters in the cast are as over-the-top as any you’ll find in cinema. Hawkins, Paddington’s adoptive mother, appears as Wonka’s late mother. Tom Davis, who played tough guy T-Bone in P2, plays a similarly bombastic character called Bleacher, henchman to Mrs. Scrubbitt (Olivia Colman, giving us Mrs. Hannigan from Annie vibes). And finally, Hugh Grant, who portrayed one of the funniest villains ever in P2, joins the cast as a very surly Oompa Loompa.

Hugh Grant suited up in flight suit as an Oompa Loompa in Wonka
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

At the center of it all is Chalamet, whose boyish good looks and tendency to bungle everything yet still come out ahead call to mind a certain lovable bear from Peru. Chalamet’s optimism, enthusiasm, and subtle humor provide enough charm to fuel the show on its own, but he doesn’t have to carry the weight alone. He’s backed up by some of the best actors in the business, like Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter as Abacus Crunch, White Lotus’s Natasha Rothwell as Piper Benz, and Keegan-Michael Key as the chief of police.

Stylistically, Wonka is not even in the same universe as Tim Burton’s 2005 movie. Depp’s Wonka was creepy and stiff, nothing like the “still waters run deep” acting of Gene Wilder in the original film. Since Wonka is an origin story, it makes sense that Chalamet’s version of the character is less jaded and more naive than his older counterparts, but one can’t deny the sweetness this change adds to the movie. This Wonka is likable, not in charge, and just doing his best, a far cry from the man who later “disappears” any naughty child who ticks him off.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Overall, Wonka hearkens to the days when every Broadway musical had to have a kick line. At times, it channels Oliver!, Annie, and even Les Misérables (Scrubbitt and Bleacher could easily stand in for “Master of the House”). Delightful original songs like “Scrub Scrub,” “Sweet Tooth,” and “500 Monks, 1 Giraffe” are punctuated with subtle orchestral versions of 1971 songs like “Pure Imagination” and “Oompa Loompa,” interweaving old and new to create an entirely unique movie.

Wonka is sure to become a family favorite that will fit in perfectly alongside the Paddington movies. You can catch it in theaters now, and it will eventually be released to stream on Max.

(featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.