Chalamet is “Wonka” in Charming Candy-Colored Prequel

Expect an everlasting gobstopper of a smile on your face as the greatest showman of the chocolate-loving world headlines a delightful new origin story. Paul King’s musical fantasy family feature Wonka (B+) stars Timothée Chalamet as the titular confectioner who arrives in Europe to realize his dream of opening a candy shop but finds himself choc-blocked by a series of rivals. Chalamet is absolutely enchanting, summoning his theatre kid charms to embody a crooning, inventive optimist, not yet cynical to the ways of the world or banishing anyone to the fudge room. Partnered with the fabulous young actress  Calah Lane in a series of adventures, they gracefully spark imagination and engage in deft wordplay. The whole ensemble is a hoot, including Olivia Colman as a wicked innkeeper, Rowan Atkinson as a priest with a sweet tooth and Hugh Grant as a surly Oompa-Loompa. King’s whimsical palette and maximalist production design sets the stage for fabulous surprises and sly humor around every corner; and Jody Talbot and Neil Hannon (frontman of Irish band Divine Comedy) bring uplift in the form of old-fashioned Broadway-style songs. When the plot shifts into all-out heist mode for a while, it’s a little less interesting; but like a string of taffy, Timmy springs it right back into sentimental health. This is definitely the non-ironic family feature of the year with just enough bite to keep everybody satisfied.

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