In an article, there is an extremely bad idea: a brand new musical that serves as a prequel to the story of Willy Wonka, the mysterious chocolate maker with a top hat from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In this story, Wonka, who is now in his middle age, decides to randomly offer five Golden Tickets to children so they can explore his secret candy paradise. However, with the talents of British comedy duo Simon Farnaby and Paul King (known for their success with Paddington), this prequel is a delightful Christmas treat. It is full of stunning visuals, creative ideas, and a heartwarming sense of humor.
Timothée Chalamet portrays a charming version of the youthful Wonka, who arrives in prewar Paris as a determined young man after living a quaint life at sea. His goal is to use his mother’s chocolate recipes to make his fortune. He becomes a disruptor in the chocolate industry, introducing innovative ideas and facing challenges such as cruelty and imprisonment. With the support of new friends, he ultimately triumphs.
Chalamet has an ethereal and mischievous quality, appearing otherworldly and possessing a charming innocence reminiscent of Paddington. He also has a pleasant singing voice, but does not come across as obnoxious. Despite his slim figure, he does not indulge in eating chocolate himself, choosing instead to bravely confront the villains’ deadly plan of “Death by Chocolate”. I can’t help but wonder, what will Farnaby and King do next? Perhaps a prequel featuring CS Lewis’s White Witch as a young girl exploring a “Delight” candy factory in Turkey with wide-eyed curiosity?
Hugh Grant shines as the original Oompa-Loompa, the guardian of the chocolate empire, digitally transformed to a mere 12 inches tall. He exudes a sense of superiority and entitlement, often expressing himself through tribal-inspired musical performances. Olivia Colman and Tom Davis deliver standout performances as the intimidating Sweeney Todd-like couple who oppress poor Wonka. Additionally, Matt Lucas, Paterson Joseph, and Matthew Baynton impress as the trio of sinister chocolate tycoons known as Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, who resent Wonka’s innovative creations. Rowan Atkinson adds another enigmatic character to his impressive acting repertoire as a priest. Calah Lane shines as Willy’s friend Noodle, while Jim Carter charms as Wonka’s wise ally and accountant Abacus Crunch. Keegan-Michael Key brings laughter as the chocoholic chief of police, and Phil Wang adds a memorable dance number with Chalamet.
However, what can be said about the previous knowledge we have of the adult version of Wonka? What caused him to add sea salt to his chocolate bar? What experiences in his youth shaped him into the enigmatic and perhaps even menacing adult figure with a touch of Dahlian cruelty, who takes pleasure in punishing greedy and ill-mannered children with a dreadful fate? (In reality, Wonka is not all that different from another one of Dahl’s characters, the candy-toting Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.) Unfortunately, this movie does not provide an answer to that question and instead acts as though it never existed. Wonka is simply portrayed as a genuinely kind person. That’s the end of the story.
It is possible that Farnaby and King may create a sequel to Wonka, where something occurs to cause our young protagonist to turn against some of his sweet-toothed customers. I hope this does not happen because, despite the added sweetness, I must admit…confidentially…that I found this version more enjoyable than the two previous film adaptations featuring Gene Wilder in 1971 and Johnny Depp in 2005. It provides a rush of chocolate-induced endorphins.