The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | ‘Wonka’ excels musically, brings fun addition to original story

Photo courtesy of IMDb
Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in 2023 December release “Wonka.” Columnist Nicolas Roacho reviews the new prequel musical.

Paul King’s “Wonka” is Warner Bros’ new prequel to the 1971 musical classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1964 book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The film follows Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet), a chocolate maker with a dream to make it big in the chocolate industry. However, things go awry when he gets caught up with the “Chocolate Cartel” and a shady laundromat owner.

The movie and the story as a whole embraces the wackier side of its universe as it cranks it all to a level of 11.

This can mainly be seen with Chalamet’s performance as Wonka and his zany mannerisms. It’s also shown with the movie’s fixation on chocolate and how it holds a grip on the people living within the unnamed city, including its law enforcement.

However, the movie knows when to put the weirdness aside for its main themes of hope and never giving up on your dreams. 

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The role of Willy Wonka comes with big shoes to fill, as the role has already been portrayed on the big screen by actors Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp. Wonka stands as arguably Wilder’s most iconic role, and Depp’s version of the character was incredibly well-liked by fans of the original story, as is outlined in a 2020 article from Screen Rant.

Despite facing this challenge, Chalamet excels in creating his own portrayal of Wonka, which manages to stand out from the rest while acting as a younger version of the character audiences have adjusted to over the years. 

His mannerisms exude the quirk and charm that Wilder had in his portrayal of Wonka, and the weirdness of how he acts echoes Depp’s take on the character.

As a result, the movie imbues a sense of wonder that will likely bring a smile to viewers faces. 

The story and message make for a movie that adds to the ongoing lore of a character without feeling like a cash grab, unlike recent franchise additions “The Exorcist: Believer” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

The only issue with the story are some slight pacing issues, which more often than not speed through the main plot seemingly in order to lead to the next song. 

As a result, though the scenes advancing the plot are chaotic and fun to look at, there isn’t really time for the story to settle in for its progression. 

This leaves the story feeling slightly uninteresting in comparison to the music and performances by the main cast.

The main point of “Wonka” is a musical — in that sense, the movie is excellent. Not only was the music sung by all of the actors in the movie, but the songs are catchy and greatly add to the film’s standout visuals.

The soundtrack, composed by Neil Hannon and written by Joey Talbot and King, is made up primarily of new music, with “Pure Imagination” being the only song reused and re-recorded for the film. 

“Wonka” is a fun addition to Dahl’s original story that stuns all and leaves behind a new staple in whimsical and fun movie-musicals.


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