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The Sunflower

REVIEW: ‘Wonka’ serves as a great yet questionable film

Photo+courtesy+of+Warner+Bros.+Pictures
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Whimsical, fun and filled with sweets, the highly-anticipated “Wonka,” starring Timothée Chalamet, is the prequel to the Gene Wilder classic, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” 

“Wonka,” instead of simply retelling “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” like the 2005 remake “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” tells the story of Willy Wonka and his pursuit of selling his unique chocolates. Wonka arrives by boat with very little money and a “hat full of dreams.”

This was a great opening to the movie as it introduced Wonka as a character and his dreams and aspirations, different from the other renditions that just introduce Wonka as a mysterious and enigmatic character.

Upon arrival, Wonka spends all the money he has and doesn’t have enough to spend on a hotel room, that is, until we meet Mrs. Scrubbit and Bleacher. They offer Wonka a room for the night for what seems like a good bargain and let him pay the next day. If you’re thinking, “this is too good to be true,” that’s because it is. 

Noodle, an orphan who works at the hotel, tries to warn Wonka about staying at the hotel and whispers to him to read the fine print in the form before signing. Wonka, of course, does not read the fine print, which locks him into the conflict that drives the plot.

Because of his ignorance, Wonka has to work as an employee for the hotel for the next several years to pay off his debt. This sets the stage for the rest of the film, alongside a buddy friendship and camaraderie with Noodle. We see more of Noodle in this scene as she shows up and gives Wonka the “I told you so” lecture. 

I wish Wonka was slightly less oblivious in this scene because I felt like it made the movie drag on longer than it really needed to, but it did add to the plot, so I will give it that. Getting to experience Wonka as a character before he came into power added a unique lens to the film.

The two befriend each other in this scene as Wonka shows her his mini chocolate factory. This is an important scene for Wonka’s characterization: we learn that Wonka grew up poor, and his mom made Willy a chocolate bar for his birthday as a kid. When she died a day or two later, that chocolate bar was all he had left of her, and it inspired him to make and sell chocolate.

This was the only sad scene in the movie, and this works because the movie is supposed to be fun.

In order to avoid being stuck in the situation any longer, Wonka and Noodle devise a plan to escape, help the others escape, and live better lives than they are living now. 

The movie gets a bit questionable while at the zoo on an arbitrary mission. During the zoo scene, they sing what comes off as a romantic song. In the movie, Noodle is 14 years old, and Willy Wonka is 22. 

I was questioning this when I originally saw the trailer for the movie over the summer during Barbenheimer, and now I’m questioning it a bit more after seeing the entire scene. Obviously, nothing happened, but it does seem a bit off and distract from the whimsy of the movie. 

One interesting aspect of “Wonka” was the amount of celebrity cameos, including Rowan Atkinson, who played Mr. Bean, and Keegan-Michael Key of Key & Peele.

Despite the one questionable scene, the movie was great overall. Timothee was a great choice for this movie, especially because his personality closely resembled Gene Wilder’s in the 1971 classic. 

I also think Chalamet did a great job with the “Pure Imagination” cover, especially since it was close to Gene Wilder’s voice in the original song and movie. 

“Wonka” was a great movie to see over the holidays, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fun whimsical movie that also tells the story of one the most famous fictional characters.

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About the Contributor
Jacinda Hall, Podcast Editor
Jacinda Hall is the podcast editor for The Sunflower. Hall is a junior majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in English literature. Her favorite quote is by Kurt Cobain: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” In her free time, Hall likes to go to the gym, crochet and make fancy beverages. Hall's pronouns are she/her.

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