Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in Wonka

‘Wonka’ Is a Surprisingly Fun and Refreshing Look Into Our Favorite Chocolatier

4/5 fizzy lifting drinks.

When the idea of Wonka came about, many scoffed at the notion. But a Paul King and Timothée Chalamet collaboration in the world of Roald Dahl works to bring to life a story of Willy Wonka like we’ve never seen before.

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The world-famous chocolatier had to get his start somewhere, and Wonka tells the tale of a humble beginning for the recluse before we ever see him in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Directed by King, who co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Farnaby, Wonka is a surprisingly fun take on the character of Willy Wonka.

Chalamet is a song and dance man of a hopeful chocolate maker, traveling the world to find the best ingredients for his chocolate, to go to London with a dream and a few coins to his name. What makes Wonka so addicting to watch is the way the film weaves in mystery and song to make for an instant classic, much like the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder as Wonka. We have had other iterations of the character, more recently with Johnny Depp in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but Chalamet’s take on Wonka is more connected to Wilder’s portrayal and the beloved ’70s film—especially with the running score of “Pure Imagination” that plays throughout Wonka.

A mix of nostalgia for those of us still tied to the original film and that deep seated love many of us have for the story as a whole, Wonka still manages to capture the magic of Willy Wonka as a character while shinning a new light on him, all carried beautifully by Chalamet’s performance, which is aided by his trusted friend and ally Noodle (Calah Lane) when he’s stuck in an unbreakable contract that keeps him working for decades when he gets to London.

A man with a dream

Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) stands under a light with a quizzical look on his face as Noodle (Calah Lane) stands in the background in 'Wonka'
(Warner Bros.)

King and Farnaby managed to capture what so many of us loved about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in Wonka. Balancing the musical tones and the wonder of Wonka’s love of chocolate is not easy but adding in characters like Noodle, and the other people indebted that Wonka meets, makes for a more layered crop of characters to pull from.

Where Wonka really shines in fixing the lore of Willy Wonka is navigating his long-standing relationship with the Oompa-Loompas. The little orange man, as Wonka calls him through most of the movie, is played by Hugh Grant and the two have a fight when “Lofty” keeps stealing all of Wonka’s chocolates. But throughout the movie, the two actually begin to talk about the art of chocolate, why Wonka went to the home of the Oompa-Loompas, and how they eventually go on to work together.

It, in turn, makes a questionable addition way back in 1971 into something a bit more nuanced and layered for a newer audience.

Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as an Oompa Lompa in Wonka (Warner Bros.)
(Warner Bros.)

Giving Wonka a backstory seemed unnecessary when news about the film started, but having seen Wonka and Chalamet’s approach to the character, it just brings a level of joy and hopefulness that makes the eventual downfall we do see in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that much more upsetting. Everything that King and Farnaby added to Wonka’s story worked to make him a more likable character in future stories, and it makes a movie like Wonka a perfect holiday film.

Outside of an unnecessary storyline with Keegan-Michael Key’s chief of police continually getting bigger and bigger because of his love of chocolate, the movie itself is just a love letter to Willy Wonka as a character and why we love this story so much. It is filled with pure imagination, as cheesy as that is, and will bring you to tears by the end if you have the emotional attachment to the Wilder take that many of us do. And Chalamet does a brilliant job of honoring the Wonka that came before him and knowing where the character will go.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.