Wonka – Review

Worth seeing: for the grotesque gallery of villainous cameos and some bold musical numbers
Director:Paul King
Featuring:Timothée Chalamet, Calah Lane, Hugh Grant, Isy Suttie, Jim Carter, Justin Edwards, Keegan-Michael Key, Matt Lucas, Matthew Baynton, Natasha Rothwell, Olivia Colman, Paterson Joseph, Phil Wang, Rakhee Thakrar, Rich Fulcher, Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins, Simon Farnaby, Tom Davis, Tracy Ifeachor
Length:116 minutes
Released:8th December 2023


Full of dreams of setting up the most amazing chocolate shop in the world, a young man, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) arrives in town from a faraway land and starts to sell his wares on the streets, catching the attention of a cartel of chocolate producers, determined not to let someone else into their market.

Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton) and Prodnose (Matt Lucas) have the chief of police in their pocket and are prepared to do everything in their power to stop Wonka setting up business.

Wonka’s situation isn’t helped by the fact that his naivety and generosity soon leave him without enough money to pay rent and he ends up imprisoned in a basement laundry, run by the unscrupulous Mrs Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) and her dastardly side-kick Bleacher (Tom Davis).


The man behind the Paddington films, Paul King, casts Timothée Chalamet to portray the young Willy Wonka in this origins story, set long before his infamous chocolate factory wowed the world and taught harsh lessons in moralising through his wicked sense of humour and twisted sense of justice. But that dark underbelly of Wonka is absent.

Written by King with his frequent collaborator Simon Farnaby, it feels faithful to the magical world of Roald Dahl; bold, garish and exaggerated, with a gallery of grotesques ganging up on an underprivileged dreamer. There are, of course, plenty of songs – a reprise of two favourites from Gene Wilder’s iteration, alongside some bouncy new ditties from Neil Hannon, which are jolly and tuneful but not particularly memorable.

With much of the film set in a dingy basement, bursting into the open for some spectacular musical numbers is a welcome break.

While Wilder – and later Johnny Depp – ventured towards the grotesqueness of the villains, Chalamet plays Wonka as more of a straight man, with most of the heavy-lifting being done by a range of big stars in small roles, from Hugh Grant’s Oompa-Loompa to Rowan Atkinson’s corrupt priest.

It’s a bright, sweet confection that’s bursting with magic that fizzles out before you’ve left the cinema; it’s fun, but it’s certainly not the kind of classic that will be watched by families in decades to come.