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Timothee Chalamet's Wonka is the joyful and delicious holiday movie we all need - HELLO! reviews

Timothee Chalamet is a worthy successor to Gene Wilder's Wonka

Timothee Chalamet poses in character as Willy Wonka, there are four stars in the bottom left
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
14 December 2023
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It's been some time since we last had a classic holiday movie that the whole family would enjoy but Wonka, starring Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant, has arrived to serve up an inviting treat of joy, whimsy and fun. 

I'm an experienced entertainment correspondent, and love all things film, and this is my honest take on the film.

An origin story, Wonka – directed by Paddington director Paul King – reveals how Willy Wonka came to be the famed but controversial chocolatier, taking viewers into his feud with rivals Slugworth, Prodnose and Fickelgruber, how the Oompa Loompas joined him in his chocolate factory – but fails to truly explain how, or why, he ended up the recluse we met in the 1971 original.

Watch the trailer for Wonka with Timothee Chalamet

Wonka opens with our titular character arriving back on land after traveling the world by boat, and kicks off with a catchy song – because this is a musical, something that the trailers seem to have intentionally failed to share. It may come as a surprise to those who dislike musicals, but for everyone else, thankfully, the songs are bops that leave your toes tapping. 

Once back on dry land, we discover that Willy is a naive young man with grand dreams who has returned to his hometown to build a business, spurred on by his late mother's faith in him, in the same arcade, the Galleries Gourmet, as the town's other chocolatiers. His trusting nature sees him conned by two locals (Olivia Colman and Tom Davis) into indentured servitude, introducing a cast of supporting characters who end up helping Willy to keep his dream alive. 

Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka© WB
Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka

But Willy soon learns that the three businessmen - Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton)- have teamed up with the local police force, 300 chocolate-obsessed monks and a corrupt priest (Rowan Atkinson) to keep any newcomers out of the lucrative business, forcing Willy to work alongside his new friends to take the crime ring public – and allow him the chance to live out his dreams. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Timothee brings so much heart to the film that you find yourself overlooking the fact that the storyline is ultimately thin, and leaves a huge gap between how the film ends and the Willy we meet in the 1971 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while his cast of supporting actors, including Downton Abbey's Jim Carter, a former account who was also trapped by Olivia's Mrs Scrubbit, do just enough with the little they are given to make them memorable enough.

Olivia Colman as Mrs Scrubbit in Wonka© WB
Olivia Colman as Mrs Scrubbit in Wonka

British icon Hugh stars as Lofty, the Ooopa Loompa who has been following him around the globe, and brings the exact amount of absurdity you'd hope for a role of this infamy, while Patterson's Slugworth is the perfect villain – a madman hiding his true colors in charm - and it is a true treat to see The Crown's Olivia throwing herself into the conniving and heartless Mrs Scrubbit, a far cry from her usual roles. 

The standout supporting character is Noodle, played by newcomer Calah Lane, a tween girl who was found by Mrs Scrubbit as a baby down the laundry chute and has spent her entire life working for the devious laundromat owner. Calah brings an emotional depth to Noodle, as she battles between knowing no other life and yet keeping her optimistic nature alive, befriending Willy immediately and teaching Willy how to read, and their friendship is the heart of this story. 

Calah Lane as Noodle in Wonka© WB
Calah Lane as Noodle in Wonka

Nathan Crowley's production design and Lindy Hemming's costumes are also standouts, bringing intentional connections and reminders of the original film, paired with a score composed by Joby Talbot that includes throwbacks to the original soundtrack. 

But this is Timothee's film. The American actor brings all of the charm of Gene Wilder's Willy – the twinkle in the eye, the comedic timing, and quirkiness  – as well as his hidden sadness, hinting at the grief he rarely shares. 

He is having the time of his life – and that allows us to also indulge in the sweet, at times nutty, and always delicious Wonka.

Wonka is out in cinemas in the US on December 15, 2023 and worldwide now

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