- Written by Stephen McIntosh
- Entertainment reporter
Wonka has tantalized critics with many glowing reviews, but some have pointed out that the character lacks the darker elements of previous versions.
Timothée Chalamet plays Willy Wonka in the origin story of famous chocolate factory owner Roald Dahl.
The Telegraph called it “the most fun you’ll have at the cinema all year” in a five-star review.
But The Times gave it only two stars and said the film was “as hollow as a chocolate egg.”
The Wonka film, which will be released in the UK on Friday and the US a week later, is directed and written by Paul King and co-written by Simon Farnaby – the same team behind the hit Paddington 2.
Chalamet plays the character previously portrayed by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp in previous adaptations of the children’s novel.
“Chalamet is daring, unworldly and possesses the innocence and charm of Paddington – and a gentle singing voice – without being insufferable,” he wrote.
But Bradshaw added that the film shied away from addressing what turned Wonka into “a somewhat mysterious, even sinister adult figure with a tinge of Dalian cruelty” who punishes greedy children.
“This movie doesn’t answer that question and acts as if it doesn’t exist. Wonka is really nice. End of story,” he said.
“sometimes, [the film] It deviates too much from Harrogate panto for comfort (see Olivia Colman’s Mrs. Script), but Chalamet keeps you invested, walking an elegant line between eccentricity and sincerity, embracing Wilder’s flash while avoiding Depp’s creepiness.
Chalamet was “mistaken” as Wonka
“Much like those gentle adventures, much like those detective adventures, Wonka is very much good old-fashioned cinematic magic,” she said in her four-star review.
“It evokes wit, warmth and fond memories of classics past: there’s a whole lot of Mary Poppins in here, a bit of Matilda, some Oliver!, and then, unexpectedly, a bit of Les Misérables.”
However, she added: “Maybe Chalamet is a little bit wrong here. He reads more as Newsy than as Wonka, as a very nice, normal guy.”
“Portraying the dreamy Chalamet as a younger version of Gene Wilder’s short-tempered, irascible and fundamentally dangerous Willy Wonka was always going to be a bit of a stretch,” he said.
“Sadly, it was also a mistake, as this overwrought musical introduction cruelly demonstrates.”
“Chalamet proves to be a very respectable man in song and dance. He has a clear, unobtrusive vocal style and never engages in Broadway-style showboating, which bodes well for his performance in the upcoming Bob Dylan biopic.”
“Willy Wonka – bold, big-hearted and sometimes a little bemused – is a joy to spend time with, which helps smooth out the odd hiccup in the narrative.”
Chalamet has previously starred in films such as Dune, Little Women, Bones and All, Beautiful Boy, and Call Me by Your Name, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.
The film’s six original songs were written by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy.
He said King and Farnaby “dusted it off with enough details taken from Dahl’s novel and the 1971 film to make the brand add value… Religious Wonkers are rewarded with nods and winks: a turn of phrase here, a visual echo there.”
He concluded, “Like any good chocolatier, King focused obsessively on texture and flavour. It is these qualities – fine-tuned to suit mass-market tastes, but at the same time maintaining gourmand balance – that give his film an irresistible, velvety sweetness.”
But other critics echoed the sentiment that very little of the original Willy Wonka character remained in the latest depiction.
“His magical ability to make chocolate levitate or transform a dilapidated cavernous retail space into a cornucopia of wonders seems like the kind of standard-issue doodle you see in TV commercials.
“Young audiences may be intrigued, but I’m sorry to report that I found the entire dessert to be painfully, hopelessly sweet.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman agreed. “I bet it might have been a bigger hit if it had been less polished for kids, and had more Roald Dahlens tapped into it for everything,” he wrote.
“If you come to Wonka expecting Willy Wonka’s past to be revealed, that’s not what’s really interesting about the movie,” he said. “You get a brief backstory about Wonka’s love of chocolate coming from his late mother (Sally Hawkins), but that’s about it.
“Instead, it’s a stunning show full of singing and dancing – King knows you know how it ends, so he focuses entirely on having a great time instead.”
“Freelance entrepreneur. Communicator. Gamer. Explorer. Pop culture practitioner.”