Dull chocolate: Timothee Chalamet Is good, but the new ‘Wonka’ Is missing the magic

Timothee Chalamet gives it his best shot in Wonka, a film that takes much more inspiration from Gene Wilder’s original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory than it does Tim Burton’s OK remake.

A prequel with a heavy musical slant, the film looks good, and it gets a charming performance out of Chalamet as Willy Wonka—but for a musical about chocolate, it comes off as rather flat. The songs don’t really click, except, of course, when they dust off “Pure Imagination” from the original. Apart from a scene-stealing Hugh Grant as a grouchy Oompa-Loompa, the film is rather dull.

The story starts with Willy Wonka on a boat, heading ashore and hoping to establish himself as a world-renowned chocolate maker. He already has some magical confections that make you fly when you eat them, so one has to wonder why he would still be a pauper with such a magical invention at his disposal … but if he were the richest candymaker in the world already, there’d be no prequel.

He gets himself imprisoned by an evil innkeeper (Olivia Colman) and sneaks out to peddle his wares, eventually running into Grant’s little orange guy and finding a location for the future chocolate factory. Nearly two hours go by; there’s a bunch of singing and dancing—and nothing really makes an impact. It lacks the sort of magic that made the Wilder version such a treat. Since this film leans upon the legacy of that movie so heavily, it is a surprise that it’s so dull.

The film is directed by Paul King, maker of the beloved Paddington movies. Come to think of it, I wasn’t crazy about those movies, either, despite their critical acclaim. Maybe I’m just missing the chip that allows me to enjoy the movies of Paul King.

A game supporting cast—including Colman, Rowan Atkinson and Keegan-Michael Key—performs admirably. Key is especially good as a police chief dangerously addicted to chocolate, while Calah Lane is OK as Wonka’s young business partner.

It all seems like a setup for a possible sequel which could take place during the original film’s timeline. It will be interesting to see if that project comes to fruition. If it does, it needs to have a little more electricity than this undertaking.