After growing up on a houseboat with his beloved mother (Sally Hawkins), who collected cocoa beans and made the most heavenly chocolate, young Willie took to the seas.  We meet him disembarking in a new city with 12 silver sovereigns in his pocket and the dream of becoming a chocolatier, but the coins don’t last a day and the kind-hearted dreamer becomes indentured to Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) for 27 years when he fails to read the fine print on his room rental contract.  But while the inventive magician will find a way to escape with the help of the orphan Noodle (Calah Lane, TV's 'This Is Us'), there is still the Galeries Gourmet’s underhanded Chocolate Cartel and the corrupt Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) with a sweet tooth determined to stop “Wonka.”

Laura's Review: C+

Cowriter (with his "Paddington 2" scribe Simon Farnaby)/director Paul King takes a new tack on Roald Dahl’s magical candy man by going the origin story route and it is one strange hybrid of a movie, a sincerely corny musical starring a big name (Timothée Chalamet) who really can’t sing or dance yet manages to charm within a world studded with “Paddington” magic and uneven effects that stops dead in its tracks with almost every musical number. 

Willy’s plan is to hawk enough chocolates to get backing to open a shop in Galeries Gourmet, but after his first batch not only delights the crowd which gathers but lifts them into the air, right along with the Cartel trio of Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose ('Little Britain's' Matt Lucas)  and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), Officer Attable (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, "Paddington 2") informs him that chocolate may only be sold from within a shop.  That night he ends up installed In Scrubbit’s underground laundry along with Noodle, Abacus Crunch ("Downton Abbey's" Jim Carter), Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar, Netflix's 'Sex Education'), Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell, HBO's 'Insecure’) and wannabe funnyman Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher, TV's 'The Mighty Boosh'), the latter four welcoming him in interminable, repetitive song.  Ever inventive, Wonka uses Scrubbit’s right hand man Bleacher’s (Tom Davis, "Paddington 2") dog Tiddles to run a laundry machine while Noodle distracts Scrubbit with fairy tales of Bleacher’s aristocratic Bavarian background.  As those two canoodle, Willy and Noodle sneak out to the zoo to milk a giraffe for one of Wonka’s confections.  (A silhouetted portrayal of the zoo’s security guard going through the stages of a chocolate whipped up by Wonka is a clever touch.)

Meanwhile the chief of police enters the cartel’s underground lair by way of a confessional armed by Father Julius (Rowan Atkinson) where he rejects their attempts to get him of ‘take care of’ Wonka’ until their offer hits 1,800 boxes of chocolate.  And back inside Mrs. Scrubbit’s, Willy catches the ‘weird little man,’ an orange Oompa-Loompa with green hair (Hugh Grant), who’s been stealing his chocolates for years in retaliation for Wonka’s mom’s having wiped out their entire crop of four cocoa beans (one of the film’s most charming moments is Willy relating memories of his mother to Noodle, a magical flipbook animating old timey pictures of an idyllic scene).           

King delivers magical briefcases and huge bouquets of balloons, a slim Willy in tophat countered by an ever enlarging police chief (shades of Augustus Gloop!).  Our hero will connect Noodle, an orphan (but not “Annie”), to stolen wealth and enlist that Oompa-Loompa in his grand scheme, one in which he’ll find his mother right beside him as she once promised.  But while Chalamet’s smile and optimistic character reading make for an endearing early version of Wonka, the film spins its wheels for long stretches whenever the singing starts.  “Wonka” isn’t a bad film, just a bumpy one.

Robin's Review: C+

Warner Brothers releases "Wonka" in theaters on 12/15/23.