Jamie Skinner reviews the latest Wonka film: Dreaming of opening a chocolate shop, a cash-strapped Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) must evade the city’s chocolate cartel (Paterson Joseph, Matthew Baynton, Matt Lucas), set on controlling the market.

Wonka: Cert - PG, Run-time - 1 hour 56 minutes, Director - Paul King

As I write this it’s been two days since the credits finished rolling on Wonka and ever since the soundtrack has been a permanent staple in my mind (and on Spotify). Neil Hannon’s songs bring a frequently joyous sense which bring to mind clear visions of the sequences they help create. Wonka, from its very first moments, is an unashamed full-on musical, and occasionally calls back to feelings of fellow Roald Dahl adaptation Matilda: The Musical.

The majority of songs are performed by lead Timothée Chalamet, making for a bubblingly energetic Willy Wonka, cash-strapped and determined to make a name for himself with his chocolate in a new city. However, if he wants to succeed he needs to evade the chocolate cartel (Paterson Joseph, Matthew Baynton, Matt Lucas) who control the market. Alongside him is a group who also owe debts to local hotel-cum-laundromat owners Scrubbit and Bleacher (Olivia Colman and Tom Davis - who get some of the best lines of the film: “your eyes are like rabbit droppings in two bowls of custard”).

Dreams and fantasies radiate from the screen with heart and warmth. As director Paul King showed with the pop-up book fantasy in Paddington 2 (also written alongside Simon Farnaby) he can conjure up emotion within these moments of wonder. Wonka continues this with photographic flashbacks and sketched hopes appearing next to characters. Such simple points work so well in contributing to the moments of sustained emotion, sometimes coming straight after moments of open-mouthed wonder and uplift - song A World Of Your Own is a highlight of pure imagination.

King (and Farnaby) understand how humour and emotion can co-exist, and when one can switch to the other in an instant, it’s what made the Paddington films so perfect, and Wonka another great feature - King chose to make Wonka over Paddington 3. If you’re looking for something akin to Gene Wilder’s 1971 take on the chocolate factory owner there’s little here aside from the odd quote - “strike that, reverse it” - and the central costume. Chalamet very much plays his own version of the character, and does so rather successfully; particularly during the earworm musical numbers which he puts all his effort into. 

The songs will leave you with a genuine spring in your step, going round your head as soon as the credits have finished rolling (they’re enough to cause you to sit through the credits just to listen to them!). They help capture the world of the film and the group who surround Chalamet’s central figure and support him in achieving his dreams. While certainly one or two members of the group are more at the fore than everyone else, this is, as the title may suggest, undeniably about Wonka and his journey provides plenty of uplift and emotion, leading to further fantastical joy.   

Jamie Skinner, four stars ****