Drawing us back into the luscious world of chocolate is the new feature film Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka who must brave the Galeries Gourmet to finally become the chocolatier he’s always dreamed of being. Though I wasn’t expecting a musical, it makes sense since the other films also contain musical elements. If you want to read more about the film’s fantastical elements, as well as my own personal take, continue on for my full Wonka review.
Wonka Review – Breaking Down Plot, Setting, Characters
Beware the Chocolate Cartel
Willy Wonka has traveled the world for seven years, perfecting his craft and collecting all the wacky and wild ingredients he will need to make his signature chocolates. Landing in Europe, he plans to make a fortune selling chocolates at the Galeries Gourmet but instantly falls into a bit of trouble.
Due to having no shop, Wonka isn’t allowed to sell chocolate on the streets, and to make matters worse the boarding house he chose to stay in his first night swindled him into a large amount of debt. Wonka is condemned to work in the washroom until his debts are settled, but of course, the story doesn’t end there. Wonka instead enlists the help of Noodle, an orphan that Mrs. Scrubitt (the owner of the boarding house/laundromat) has taken in at a cost, of course.
Combining forces with the others trapped in Mrs. Scrubitt’s grasp, Wonka starts selling chocolates again on the street and eventually earns enough money to buy a shop. Throughout this whole exchange, we get a glimpse into the chocolate empire of Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber and the lengths they go to bribe and swindle their way to the top.
It all seems to be going well when Wonka opens his store and customers flock in, but an unknown poisoning of the chocolates by Mrs. Scrubitt causes the customers to retaliate against Wonka, destroying his store and his dreams. It is only when Wonka figures out that he must reveal the sneaky actions taken by the cartel that he can liberate his friends, sell his chocolate, and get rid of the cartel for good.
The Other Side of the Galeries Gourmet
Now if you thought the plot was colorful and crazy, the setting balances some of this out. The buildings are all made of brick and stone, but allow an intimate glimpse into the Galeries Gourmet and the many sides of a city. But, it’s not a Dahl movie without some unique additions, and this appears in the form of exploring a zoo at night, the intricate vault of the chocolate cartel, and the dreams that both Noodle and Wonka have about their future lives.
The best piece of scenery comes at the end of the film when Wonka and Lofty the Oompa Loompa explore the abandoned “castle” that will soon turn into Wonka’s factory. As they walk around, Wonka’s imagination conjures the finished factory, and it is stunning. I enjoyed the balance of an explosion of the rainbow with the duller tones of beige and grey because it gave those moments of imagination that extra punch.
“The Greedy Beat the Needy”
This may seem like a weird statement, but Noodle’s advice to Wonka represents the class differences that appear throughout the film. Noodle and Wonka are at the bottom of the food chain, unable to pursue their dreams due to debts and skewed guidelines they must follow. But, there is always a way to get where you need to be, which Noodle and Wonka achieve by finding Noodle’s mother and getting rid of the cartel so Wonka can sell his chocolates.
The cartel of course represents the “greedy,” along with the priest, chocoholic monks, and the chief of police. They all are so blinded by profit and chocolate that they will do anything to achieve their ends. This means that the chief of police has no problem driving away any competition and even causing an “accident” to the competition, just to get his hands on more rich chocolate. That is until Wonka and Noodle reveal their misdeeds over the years, and all of them fall off their pedestal.
I love that each of the characters had to learn to grow in a certain way to stake their claim in Galeries Gourmet and that Wonka learned how to enjoy life truly after losing his mother so young.
Is Wonka Based on a Book?
Wonka and its counterparts Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) are all based on the same book by Roald Dahl in 1964 – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Though the 2023 version was transformed into a musical play by screenwriters Paul King and Simon Farnaby, it still holds elements of both the novel and the 1971 version of Willy Wonka.
How Does it Compare to the Original Movie?
Though I really enjoyed seeing a new perspective of the famous chocolate maker, there is something intimately special about the 1971 original film. I love watching five children get chosen to visit the factory, and how Willy’s quirkiness often sets him apart from the rest of society. Wonka might have shown Willy’s difficulties as a budding chocolatier, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory provides the foundation for all of the subsequent movies made in this universe.
Where to Watch All Versions of Willy Wonka
Right now you can watch Wonka in theaters, but the other two movies are old enough to be streaming. The 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is available to stream on MAX and Sling TV, while the 2005 Charlie and the Chocoloate Factory can be streamed on MAX and Hulu.
There are so many fantastical elements in this film that I think it truly embodies the story that Roald Dahl created. I will say I was surprised when Chalemet started singing in the opening scenes, but since all of the other Wonka movies contain singing portions, it only made sense that this one would too.
I loved the characters and the storyline, and even though Wonka was confident of his chocolate-making abilities, he didn’t know how to read, showing that vulnerability in a character that I prize in films. The final thing is the hints to the original movie, from certain chocolate creations to the factory at the end. It was super nostalgic to step back into my childhood for two hours and enjoy myself in the world of candy, so ultimately I’d recommend a watch based on my Wonka review.
- Engaging plot involving Willy Wonka's journey to becoming a chocolatier.
- Richly detailed settings, including the Galeries Gourmet and Wonka's factory.
- Exploration of themes like class differences and perseverance.
- Nostalgic references to the original movie.
- The original 1971 film has a special charm that is not fully matched by this new iteration.