By Thomas J. Cromer
(The following review will contain light spoilers)
The Film in Overview:
The 2023 film “Wonka” is overall an enjoyable watch from multiple different perspectives The music, setting and characters all fit together to create an entertaining film, even if it ultimately is a somewhat unfulfilled one. ”Wonka” is designed to be mostly just for entertainment and has very little depth to actually offer. The film is not designed to be a thought-provoking story; a story that tries to convince you to change your whole worldview or to teach the audience about an historical event. However, it is almost impossible for any story to avoid having its view of the world be imprinted on its art, and “Wonka” does have a few interesting things to say.
While everyone likes to listen to music in some form, musical films are far from a genre that everyone will enjoy. Over time I’ve grown a large appreciation for musicals, and “Wonka” features some specific songs that were incredibly fun and catchy. Just looking back, it was easy enough to remember some of the lyrics and tunes from titles alone, which is a testament to how memorable some of these songs managed to be.
Another pleasant thing about the songs is that all of them moved the plot along in some way or another. In the first song, Scrub Scrub, the prisoners of the laundromat are forced to clean their debts away in a dirty mess that Wonka finds himself in. This is both a comical and sad musical number, utilizing a light tune and tone to demonstrate a hard truth for our characters.The song Sweet Tooth is about the three main villains tempting the police chief to trade what is left of his morals for his greed and gluttony for their chocolate, once again using a lighter spin on a heavier idea of corruption and gluttony. The Oompa Loompa song in the film is performed by Hugh Grant’s character Lofty, who sings the story of how Wonka first impacted the Oompa Loompa population. The last song, Pure Imagination, was sung by the actor Timothée Chalamet as Wonka, which reminded me heavily of the song with the same name from the original “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with Gene Wilder as Wonka.
The settings in the film, like the original, are both sour and sweet.Despite Wonka’s bold and colorful reputation in previous films, there are a lot of moments in the film where there is surprisingly not a crazy amount of color on-screen. In some of the scenes the colors seem dull, but the director uses this to make a comparison between the dull and regular day to day life and the colorful, exciting changes Wonka wants to bring by introducing his chocolates. It helps visually demonstrate the point that Wonka, and what he is trying to accomplish, is something that is very special in a life that is often drab and dull.
Acting and Characters:
The characters in “Wonka” are all well written, starting with the namesake of the film, Willy Wonka. The actor Timothée Chalamet is well versed in both singing and dancing, which added to the charm and effectiveness of “Wonka” as a musical. The writers took loving care of the characters and their legacy, which is never more apparent than with Wonka himself. In all three of the films that have featured the characters of Willy Wonka so far, he is shown as a mixture of crazy and fun, although different adaptations have used a different ratio of the two. ”Wonka” brought its own mixture of craziness and excitement in its titular character in a way that both felt familiar while managing to be something fresh entirely.
There was only one Oompa Loompa in this film, the previously-mentioned Lofty. Hugh Grant portrayed him as quite serious, which made him an entertaining contrast to Wonka’s charm and excitement. Lastly, the three evil chocolate executives Arthur Slugworth, Gerald Prodnose and Fickelgruber were excellent examples of greedy business owners that do not care about their craft, customers or even the law. Their only care is the money they make from their chocolates, which is why they agreed to team up to keep the status quo of cheap chocolate for unreasonable prices. When met with an economic challenger with better chocolate, their decision was not to improve the chocolate, but to break many different laws to take him down. The film does a surprisingly good job showing the many pitfalls that people can fall into by pride, greed and trying to cover up their sins by more sins.
There is one major idea that “Wonka” wants the viewer to walk away with. It’s typical for many children’s movies, and that is the idea to follow your dreams. One of the dangers of this theme and its prevalence in family films is that it both sounds and looks good. There are times that it may be good to follow your dreams, such as trying to become a chocolate maker or pursuing a passion or hobby, but there are many more times that this message is inappropriate, and Christians should consider how frequently young watchers are exposed to this idea. As it says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The next verse answers that question. “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind…” The only one that can see the sickness of our hearts and make us aware of our own lostness is God. Even though following your dreams can sometimes have positive effects, it is dangerous to give that much range to a corrupt and lying device such as the heart.
Conclusion and Rating:
Even with a few bitter spots, “Wonka” was a sweet watch. I rank it 6.5 pieces of chocolate out of 10. There were a lot of things in the film that worked for its benefit, such as the music and the acting, though there were some jokes that I did not like. “Wonka” was overall pleasant, and the type of family film that I look forward to watching again.
“Wonka” is now playing in theaters
Thomas J. Cromer is a freshman social studies education major from southern Ohio. Throughout his years he’s gained many different interests and life lessons, including a love for media, food, humor and trying to write.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures