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  • Jeff Beck

Wonka: A Confection of Mixed Results (Blu-ray)


The Film:


Ever since it was first announced, the idea of a Wonka origin story was met with a mixture of scoffs, eye-rolls, and a multitude of people asking the simple question "Why?". After all, the original "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" remains a beloved classic more than 50 years after its release, featuring a brilliant performance from Gene Wilder as the eccentric chocolatier, while the Tim Burton-helmed remake ended up being a remarkably-misguided idea, with Johnny Depp's interpretation of Wonka resulting in one of the worst performances of his career. Still, despite great skepticism, Warner Bros. plunged forward with the idea, recruiting some impressive talent in the process, leaving everyone else to simply cross their fingers and hope for a more satisfying return of the classic character.


Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet), an aspiring chocolatier, comes to Europe to fulfill his dream of opening a shop at The Galéries Gourmet. Finding himself short on funds, he ends up staying at a sketchy boarding house run by Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman) and her assistant Bleacher (Tom Davis), signing a rather detrimental contract in the process. In order to make good on it, he attempts to sell his goods, but is thwarted by a group of rival chocolatiers (Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, and Matthew Baynton) who have a sweet hold on the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key). Unable to pay up, Willy's situation becomes more desperate when he is forced to work in Mrs. Scrubitt's laundromat with other captives, including an orphan named Noodle (Calah Lane). However, Willy persists in pursuing his dream, and with the help of his new friends, he soon finds that it just might be within reach.


Perhaps the biggest surprise that can be mentioned upon finishing "Wonka" is that it's not the outright disaster that many thought it would be. Rather, it would be more fair to say that the result is a curious mixed bag of elements, many of which work in its favor, with others holding it back just a little too much. First and foremost, while the concept of Wonka's origin is a semi-interesting idea, one that clearly must be told through musical spectacle, it's never able to shake the feeling of being a rather unnecessary part of his story. That is to say, as a somewhat-simplistic, by-the-numbers prequel, there aren't really any particularly compelling or surprising directions that it can go.


That said, as previously mentioned, there are a number of positive elements that go a long way towards lifting up its slightly-sagging storyline, including the wonderful charisma of Timothee Chalamet. If someone had to play a young iteration of Willy Wonka, he was certainly the man for the job, imbuing the character with great charm, and simply making him a delight to watch. Obviously he doesn't reach the level of the phenomenal Gene Wilder, but he does a remarkably better job than Depp. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast also does a fine job of bringing this zany world to life, and includes such talent as Olivia Colman, Jim Carter, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson, and Sally Hawkins.


As far as the music goes, it's something of a mixed bag as well, with some of the songs being pretty good, and others not so much. You'll recall that the original classic was filled with several great tunes that were easy to get stuck in your head, but it's fair to say that there's not really anything quite like that here. Finally, turning to the visuals, praise must be given to those behind the production & costume designs, for their work, much like the cast inhabiting it, breathes life into this wondrous world, while also making it quite a delight to look at.


Indeed, balancing everything together, it's certainly not a bad attempt at telling this story. However, with the story being the single most important element as usual, its weaknesses do end up holding it back just a little too much. Again, it was a semi-interesting concept, one that probably could've worked with a little more effort put into the story (i.e. one that wasn't so by-the-numbers), but even with its impressive cast and vibrant visuals, this telling of the tale just doesn't get quite where it needs to in order to be a satisfying treat.


Video/Audio:


"Wonka" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The picture is perfectly crisp & clear, highlighting the film's dazzling sets and costumes. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD soundtrack is marvelous, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music in excellent quality. Overall, the film simply looks & sounds great for its physical debut release.


Special Features:


Unwrapping Wonka: Paul King's Vision (12 Minutes)

The Whimsical Music of Wonka (6 Minutes)

Welcome to Wonka Land (11 Minutes)

Hats Off to Wonka (7 Minutes)

Wonka's Chocolatier (9 Minutes)


The Blu-ray comes with a wonderful set of behind-the-scenes featurettes that delve into the making of the film, focusing on areas such as the music, sets, costumes, and even the specially-designed chocolates.


Conclusion:


"Wonka" boasts an impressive cast, led by the charming Timothee Chalamet, as well as excellent production & costume design, and a few pretty good tunes. However, the film is ultimately a mixed bag thanks to its somewhat-simplistic & by-the-numbers storyline that doesn't really have any compelling or surprising directions it can go, resulting in an admirable attempt at an origin tale, but one that just isn't quite satisfying enough.


Score: 3/5


Now available on Blu-ray.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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