Friday, January 26, 2024

Review: Expectations for ‘Wonka’ fall short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Wonka is a man who simply wants to make people happy by giving them chocolate. And only a select few have a problem with it. After quickly spending his savings, he is conned to stay at Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse despite being warned by an orphan, Noodle, to read the fine print, of which there is a lot.

In order to pay off his debt he sells “Hoverchocs,” a chocolate that enables people to fly. Crooked rival chocolatiers, one of whom is Mr. Slugworth, try to put him away. He befriends Noodle and promises to help her escape the clutches of Mrs. Scrubbit.

“Wonka” stars Timothee Chalamet, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Matilda Tucker, Olivia Coleman, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Matthew Bayton, Freya Parker and Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Grant.

Willy Wonka (Chalamet) wants to show the world his chocolate. He has nothing to offer but chocolate and a hatful of dreams. He has big plans to make a fortune when he arrives in Victorian England.

However, these plans fall through when he runs out of money and is swindled when trying to stay at a boardinghouse by Mrs. Scrubbit (Coleman) for not reading the fine print of a very lengthy clause. He is warned to do so by Noodle (Lane), an orphan working at the boardinghouse. It is later discovered that Wonka is illiterate; Noodle begins to teach him how to read.

When Wonka arrives at the Gallery Gourmet, he hands out magic chocolates called “Hoverchocs,” which make a person fly after being consumed.

Police call Wonka a disturbance and feel threatened by him; so, they decide to get rid of him.

When Wonka was younger, he wanted to be a magician. It was his mother (Tucker) who made chocolate, but died before she could see him follow in her footsteps. He never found the secret to his mother’s chocolate.

A chocolate cartel, made of rival chocolatiers, including Mr. Slugworth (Holdbrook-Smith) force Wonka to leave town, but he bands together with Noodle and offers her the deal of a lifetime of chocolate. They plan to escape when Wonka discovers his chocolate was stolen by an Oompa Loompa (Grant).

Wonka learns of a secret chocolate stash and gets everyone working off debt from Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse to help him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Slugworth is doing everything he can to make Wonka go away.

Going into this movie, it’s hard not to naturally compare it to the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder; and I think the less said about Johnny Depp’s version, the better. I guess when I think of Willy Wonka I think of an older man, and that is not the portion of the story being told here. Oh, and I should warn up front this is a musical, and while most of the songs are somewhat catchy, I wanted more story and less singing. Chalamet’s portrayal of the chocolate-obsessed visionary who wants to bring happiness to a very chocolate-obsessed town is good ... but not great. I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing. I enjoyed the backstory of why he wanted to become a chocolatier and I thought the ending was a sweet one (no pun intended).

I am not a fan of Hugh Grant, but did enjoy him as a single Oompa Loompa, who is not imprisoned by Wonka, but rather a nuisance to him because he steals his chocolate. As a whole, the movie is a little on the weak side and I thought it dragged a bit in the middle. Unless you are a fan, there’s no reason to see this in the theater.

Three-quarters of a chocolate bar up.

Now playing in select theaters. <

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