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Wonka

Updated: Jan 2

You know that feeling when you open up a surprise present on Christmas morning and it's far beyond your wildest expectations?

That's WONKA!

Pack up your family, head to the theater and see this great new family musical on the biggest screen you can find this Christmas holiday.

Happy, sweet and surprisingly witty, it's got plenty of treats for young children, older kids and adults alike.

What a cast.

What can't Timothee Chalamet do? Playing master chocolate maker Willy Wonka long before we've ever known him, Chalamet (Dune, Lady Bird) proves to be a perfectly fine song and dance man, replicating some of Gene Wilder's moves yet making the role completely his own.

The film opens as Wonka arrives from seven years on the seven seas, a young chochlatier with " A Hat Full of Dreams" that hilariously die in the opening song titled exactly that.

He finds himself suddenly broke and checked into a hotel with the worst Innkeepers since the Thenardiers menaced Cosette in "Les Miserables".

Olivia Colman (The Favourite, Broadchurch) is Mrs. Scrubitt, the evil mistress of the sweat shop. Tom Davis delivers big laughs as Bleacher, her hulking enforcer at the front desk.

Willy meets five people also literally enslaved at the laundry service below the Inn, all of whom become his fast friends.

Young Noodle (a superb Calah Lane from "This Is Us") is an orphan that tries to warn Willy about those check-in documents he's signing for one night.

Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) is Abbicus Crunch, a former accountant and Natasha Rothwell plays Piper Benz, a former plumber stuck at the laundry. Rich Fulcher is hilarious as Larry Chucklesworth, a very bad stand up comedian and Rahkee Thanker is Lottie Bell, a very quiet former phone operator.

Willy devises a plan to sneak away during the day and sell his chocolate, hoping to earn the appreciation of the world's three greatest chocolate makers, whose shops all stand in the same giant, upscale mall.

Matt Lucas (Little Britain) is laugh-out-loud funny as the very literal one of the trio, Mr. Prodnose. Paterson Joseph (The Beach) is Slugworth and Mathew Baynton is Fickelgruber. The three of them have the Chief of Police at their beck and call. Keegan Michael-Key almost steals the movie as the Chief, sporting a modern accent, a moral line that's swayed hard by candy and an exploding waistline thanks to his Sweet Tooth.

Writer/Director Paul King (Paddington) creates a fast-paced mystery, inside an adventure, wrapped in a musical. There are plenty of references to the 1971 original, some obvious, some subtle but they're never patronizing to the heritage or the audience.

I had no idea this was a full blown musical going in, but the songs are all so clever, funny or inspired that you just get swept into it without question or hesitation.

Chalamet is terrific, creating a pure character that stays true to his heart. Chalamet's scenes with his mother (the relaibly great Sally Hawkins) are strong, as are her scenes with Colin O'Brien as a much younger Wonka.

Hugh Grant is inspired casting as the Oompa Loompa of the story, providing backstory on how Wonka's partnership with the orange guys got started. Grant plays it grumpy with a heavy dose of fussy English snobbery and he's very funny.

Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) has a blast as Father Julius, whose massive cathedral hides some delicious secrets about the town's evil chocolate makers.

The songs by Neil Hannon are more Monty Python than traditional kids musical, with clever word play and many punch lines built into the lyrics. When one of Wonka's chocolates make the person that eats it sing and dance like they're in a choreographed Broadway play, King and Hannon take that and run, creating massive song and dance numbers that feel like "Spamalot" mashed up with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

They save one of the songs from the original for the end of the film, using it in an unexpected way that, like the rest of the film, exceeded expectations.

With first-class production values, eye popping visuals and giant bags of fun spilling everywhwere along with the candy, WONKA announces itself as a new refreshingly old fashioned family classic that's sure to be enjoyed for many years to come.

So quiet up and listen down. Scratch that, reverse it and get to the theatre.

WONKA is an endearing holiday confection that gets a warm, hilarious & enjoyable A.



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