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The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Timothée Chalamet charms in the scrumptiously ridiculous “Wonka”

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Via Warner Bros
Oscar-nominated actor Timothée Chalamet stepped into character as the well-loved magical chocolate-maker, Willy Wonka in Paul King’s “Wonka,” the origin story of a dreamer with a big sweet tooth and a big heart.

“Well, there’s chocolate / And there’s chocolate / But only Wonka’s makes your eyes pop out their sockelets!” sings Timothée Chalamet’s spirited young Willy Wonka as he doles out his signature Hoverchocs. Willy, originally from the imagination of iconic children’s author Roald Dahl, is no ordinary chocolatier. And these are no ordinary chocolates; they contain hoverflies from Mumbai that cause levitation upon consumption. Don’t fret, you’ll come down to earth eventually (when you fart out the bug).

Released on December 15, 2023, “Wonka” followed two installments of Willy Wonkaverse movies: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005), starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp respectively. Unlike these films, which depict a well-established candy tycoon, “Wonka” takes place many years before, when our fresh-faced magician, inventor and chocolate-maker is new to town with nothing but a hatful of dreams.

The movie’s cartoonishly devious villains provide the classic colorful Roald Dahl essence. Oscar winner Olivia Colman plays nasty hotelier and human trafficker Mrs. Scrubbit, who scams Willy out of his money. Key & Peele comedian Keegan Michael-Key is a corrupt Chief of Police hunting Willy down in exchange for chocolate from the rival chocolatiers (the Jeff Bezoses of chocolate) who hold a monopoly on the market and aren’t about to lose it. These Big Chocolate bosses and their minions will stop at nothing to crush the little guy for selling good chocolate at a low price. The themes of exploitation and class struggles will be easily understood, even by a primarily young audience.

The cast is further stacked with Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean himself) as a priest who would sin for chocolate, Sally Hawkins (“Paddington”), and English heartthrob Hugh Grant as a sardonic two-foot-long carrot. This is a formal warning that his Oompa Loompa song will never leave your head.

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With Paul King, the director of “Paddington,” as the film’s creator, there is a noticeable contrast with its darker predecessors. This Willy is somewhat of a “manic pixie dream boy,” with an indomitable kind heart that still believes in pinky promises.

Although this interpretation of the candymaker had an intentionally different vibe, King’s casting decision had skeptics throwing tomatoes from the moment the trailer dropped.

“I’m makin’ chawclate of course!” Willy proclaims in an absurdly ambiguous accent, which exudes Detective Benoit Blanc from Knives Out.

However, Chalamet’s quirky charisma is sure to win audiences over. The actor is arguably best known for his serious, grim films: tragic romance “Call Me by Your Name,” bloody coming-of-age “Bones and All” (in which he eats more than chocolate) and heart-wrenching biographical drama “Beautiful Boy.” The same unflinching commitment that makes him striking in these roles makes him a believable Willy Wonka. King also jokes that Chalamet’s viral rap performance for his high school statistics project demonstrated his killer dance chops. Ms. Lawton gave ‘Lil Timmy T’ a D+, but proved to King that this actor wouldn’t shy away from a goofy character.

Chalamet got to show off his vocals and swagger again throughout the movie’s musical numbers. His infectious enthusiasm makes it almost impossible not to root for him and the friends he teams up with along the way, including a lonely little girl named Noodle, who has never met her parents and, much to Willy’s surprise, never had chocolate. He takes her under his wing as a big brother figure, and they become partners in crime. Lovers of uplifting chosen family films like “Annie” will find a new favorite here.

Willy comes face to face with a dancing Oompa Loompa played by award-winning actor Hugh Grant.

Undoubtedly, the movie has its cookie-cutter moments. It does pull out every trope in the hat (dead mom, animal friend, a “where are they now” montage). And being a children’s movie shouldn’t excuse using overplayed fat jokes as a crutch. Throughout the film, the chocoholic cop’s weight gain is portrayed using a fat suit, and this banality stands out in an otherwise sharply written comedy. 

Every one of its messages is blatant, so unfortunately for film bros who want something to interpret, “Wonka” leaves very little to the imagination (except the 500 chocoholic monks that were sadly never revealed). 

Even Chalamet had his doubts about whether this remake would bring something original. 

“Your eyebrows go up with skepticism about [whether] this is a legitimate, worthwhile story or a cynical money grab,” Chalamet told Games Radar. But ultimately, the heart of the movie is genuine, and making a movie accessible to little kids doesn’t necessarily spoil all the fun.

For those who can stomach a sweetness, forget the haters. The wide-eyed boy in the purple suit is determined to bring wonder back into the world, and this is a treat for everyone’s inner child.

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Sophie Kim, Staff Writer

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