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Movies on HBO: WONKA

by Jef Dinsmore
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Based on the extraordinary character at the center of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, this film tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician, and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today. Didn’t know you needed that origin story, did you?

WONKA, as of Saturday, March 09 is now running on HBO and is available to stream on Max. The movie attempts to give a backstory to the magical man famously brought to the screen in 1971 by Gene Wilder; Johnny Depp, as we well know, also had a chance to do the same with Burton’s version in 2005. Whether intentional or not, both those versions came across as a bit creepy. How about Timothy Chalamet’s performance? Well, his performance was both praised and criticized for his singing, while some considered him miscast. But that doesn’t mean that you or your family might not enjoy his allure just the same. The efforts of director Paul King (Paddington) are all up on the screen in full swirling candy-coated colors.

As for the plot, it seems Willy Wonka’s mother (who made chocolate bars) has died and the young Wonka travels to Europe to open his own chocolate shop. Something called the Chocolate Cartel is there to thwart him. By the movie’s end credits, Wonka opens the last chocolate bar his mother left him, which is revealed to Movies_Wonka-Piccontain a golden paper with a message telling him that chocolate is best shared with others. He and Lofty, (Hugh Grant) an Oompa Loompa, would then acquire an abandoned castle to commence building a new factory where gobsmackin’ wonders abound ever since.

To let the critics weigh in we cite Globe and Mail which said, “Chalamet seems to be a Gene Wilder fan But he can’t live up to the original candyman He’s flat, and he’s grating, and he can’t sing a tune. The heartthrob is best off on the sands of Dune.” But the Daily Telegraph noted, “Like any good chocolatier, King has obsessively focused on texture and flavour. And it’s those qualities – tuned to mass-market tastes, yet held in connoisseurish balance – that give his film its irresistible velvety sweetness.” So, was Chalamet miscast, or was the tone all wrong? Or is it charming nonetheless? Watch it and see, but we give Rotten Tomatoes the last words here:

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