Wonka review: A brilliantly bizarre prequel packed full of musical magic and sweet treats

6 December 2023, 18:20 | Updated: 6 December 2023, 18:26

Wonka is brilliantly bizarre.
Wonka is brilliantly bizarre. Picture: Warner Bros

By Emma Soteriou

If you’ve ever wanted to travel in a world of Willy Wonka’s creation, there is no better place to start than at the beginning. Before the chocolate factory and before the oh-so precious golden tickets. And that’s where the Wonka prequel comes in.

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The films follows a young Willy Wonka as he pursues his dream of opening his very own confectionary shop. But there is one thing in his way: The chocolate cartel – made up of Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton) and Prodnose (Matt Lucas).

Then hostel owner Mrs Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) steps in and Wonka soon finds himself stuck working in her washhouse with a group of misfits. He befriends an orphan named Noodle and the pair work together to make his dream a reality. They are joined by a few friends along the way and, of course, a troublesome Oompa Loompa in the shape of Hugh Grant.

The plot is simple but effective – and it pays off in the long run, despite some scenes bordering on too long nearer to the end.

The true magic comes in the musical aspect of the film, with huge numbers and bright, colourful sets that really do make you feel like you’ve entered a world of pure imagination. The storyline can be truly bonkers at times, from the milking of a giraffe to the appearance of hundreds of chocoholic monks. But that’s the beauty of Wonka – and you would expect no less from the extravagant chocolatier.

Timothée Chalamet at left as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as Lofty, the Oompa-Loompa
Timothée Chalamet at left as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as Lofty, the Oompa-Loompa. Picture: Alamy

Timothée Chalamet manages to make the popular character his own while giving nods to both of his predecessors. His eccentricity is also balanced out with touching, sentimental moments between himself and the charming Calah Lane as Noodle, who truly shines throughout. The pair bounce off one another well and Lane does not shy away from taking centre stage.

Surprisingly though, it’s the villains that win the most laughs and end up being the most fun to watch on screen. The chocolate cartel have the strongest musical numbers and Mat Baynton and Matt Lucas’ characters shine even when they are merely backing dancers to Paterson Joseph’s delightfully evil Slugworth. Tom Davis and Olivia Colman also work perfectly as the cruel comedy duo that can only be compared to the innkeepers in Les Miserables, with their wicked yet hilarious antics.

The casting is undeniably brilliant, with several familiar faces popping up. Sally Hawkins stars as Wonka’s mother, Jim Carter as Abacus Crunch and Keegan-Michael Key as the Chief of Police. A bonus comes in the shape of Rowan Atkinson’s short but sweet appearance in the film as the chocolate-obsessed Father Julius, who is an absolute joy to watch.

Wonka (2023) directed by Paul King and starring Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Colman and Hugh Grant.
Wonka (2023) directed by Paul King and starring Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Colman and Hugh Grant. Picture: Warner Bros

In the safe hands of Paddington director Paul King and screenwriter Simon Farnaby, the film is nothing short of a spectacle. The pair manage to bring the craziest ideas and storylines to life, with catchy songs, slapstick comedy and wonderful visuals while maintaining the essence of what Roald Dahl first created years ago.

Wonka is a brilliantly bizarre adventure and the perfect treat for families this Christmas. It takes you on a wholesome journey and delivers on a sweet and satisfying ending that will leave you on a high. It’s every dreamer’s golden ticket.