WONKA Is...Actually Not Bad! | Review

Adapted from Random Reaction Super Show #11, originally released March 18, 2024.

I finally saw Wonka this past weekend, and, frankly, I was pleasantly surprised. Based on the trailers, I was expecting this to be another big-budget reboot/prequel/requel flop in the vein of Robert Downey, Jr.’s Doolittle (which I haven’t seen, but which tanked in every way imaginable). But, no, Wonka is actually passable entertainment. 

Now, I should preface this by acknowledging that I’m not overly familiar with Wonka lore. I’ve never read the book, never seen the Burton/Depp version, and didn’t watch the Gene Wilder version until I was an adult. So, I don’t have the connection with the material that fans will have. But if taken as it’s own thing—as a standalone origin story—the film works well. 

Timothée Chalamet, whom I’ve praised at length in Dune reviews, anchors the picture with an ebulliently innocent rendition of the titular character. Teen actress Calah Lane, with whom I was not familiar beforehand, is excellent as Wonka’s sidekick, Noodle. Hugh Grant garners several laughs as an Oompa Loompa, although the digital shrinking effects on the actor leave something to be desired for this reviewer. 

Director Paul King, of Paddington fame, handles directing duties admirably, with wide angles and colorful palettes, most noteably in the musical numbers. The plot is basic but serviceable and, more importantly, not contrived. 

Overall, it’s reminiscent of another recent musical requel, Mary Poppins Returns—except Wonka is good, while Returns missed the mark. One negative aspect Wonka shares with the Poppins follow-up is the music. While the musical numbers are copious (at one point, seeming to pop up in every other sequence), only two or three songs stood out to me in the moment, and I can only recall one today. And I say this as a professional songwriter and musician.

It’s also unabashedly a kid picture as opposed to a family picture. Although the distinction seems to have been lost in today’s world, “kid pictures” are targeted specifically at children, while “family pictures” contain elements aimed at both kids and their parents but without containing any particularly objectionable material that would preclude the former from being allowed to watch it. There’s nothing wrong with kid pictures; just be advised there isn’t much on screen for the adult demographic.

The film contains a couple of moments of crude humor that parents might not want their three-year-old repeating in public. There is also one plot thread that, at times, might be considered a little too suggestive for some, and the lead villain lets out a mild curse toward the climax of the movie. If that sounds a little too much for your household, I suggest using a filtering service like ClearPlay, which I love (and am, unfortunately, not getting any kickbacks to plug) and which will mute or skip any unwanted content.

Subjective Rating: 6, possibly 5, out of 10, simply because it isn't geared toward my demographic. 

Objective Rating: Solid 7/10, recommend for the kids.

Cole Powell is an award-winning singer/songwriter and Z-list YouTuber and podcast host. Armed with degrees in computer technology and liberal arts and sciences, Powell seeks to pontificate his pitiful opinions to the masses through any means the internet allows.

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