“Wonka” Capitalizes on Nostalgia for the Original

Timothy Chalamet puts on the charm in "Wonka" courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

“Wonka” (2023) topped the box office charts this year, making nearly $395 million. Released in theaters last December, directed by Paul King and starring Timothée Chalamet, the film draws from the sugary charm of the original Disney musical, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which starred Gene Wilder. Chalamet, who was born a theater kid, said he felt a lot of pressure to “fill the shoes” of Gene Wilder, one of the cinematic giants of all time.

Drawing from fan favorite songs from the original Disney film, “Wonka” reprises “Come with me and you will be in a world of pure imagination” and the “Oompa Loompa” song. “Wonka” adds several new songs and dance numbers that fit our modern sensibilities.

The Willy Wonka franchise is all about dreaming and trying to create happiness in the world with chocolate. “Wonka” capitalizes on that idea by creating a society where there is a penalty of $3 for daydreaming, causing there to be little to no dreams for people.

“Wonka” takes place decades before the Gene Wilder film, and starts with Willy Wonka coming back after traveling for seven years after perfecting his chocolate-making craft. Wonka got his chocolate abilities from his mom, who passed away and he hoped it would bring her back when he opened his very own chocolate shop.

After coming back home, Wonka needed a place to stay, which caused him to work until he could pay off his debts. Actress Calah Lane (“This is Us”), who plays Noodle, tries to warn Wonka about the fine print, an allusion to what Wonka himself will do in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” While being trapped, Noodle and the other people stuck there paying off their debt, helped Wonka open his shop. Noodle and Wonka’s friendship creates the uplifting heart of the film.

The plot does meander a little, with a “chocolate cartel” serving as the main nemesis to Wonka’s attempts to pay off his debts and open his own shop.

There are some clever moments in the film, such as Wonka’s chocolate luggage being actually made out of chocolate, including the hinges.

Perhaps some of the best lines come from Hugh Grant’s (“Paddington 2”) version of the Oompa Loompa.

What really makes “Wonka” stand out though is the performance of Timothy Chalamet, who understood that “this is the role of a lifetime.”

“Wonka” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.