joi, 21 decembrie 2023

Wonka (2023)

Wonka is the prequel to Roald Dahl's children classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) -back then, when the children fares were bleak and dark and scary, which was cool;). Shamefully, no book by Dahl was ever published in communist Romania. I first hear about him as a screenwiter of Bond (You Only Live Twice) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

The first film version of the book (which is huge in the world and especilly Anglo-Saxon culture) was called differently, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, directed by Mel Stuart), with a brilliant Gene Wilder in one of his most beloved parts. Nice songs and dwarves dressed as Oompa Lumpas, but cheesy set design and so so production values and direction. More like a darker Disney childern film of that age.

I guess you have to grow up with the Oompa Loompas, which we didn't. So we just saw that 1971 film because a new version was coming out in 2005, the weirdly creepy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton, with scary score by Danny Elfman and a Marilyn Manson inspired weird-o performance by Johnny Depp.  Freaky and all-in-all a curio misfire.

So the idea of a prequel isn't bad, because it's explained in the book how Wonka was betrayed before by everybody and sacked finally all his workers and from then on he became a recluse and a mystery. Sort of like Howard Hughes ;). I liked specially the idea of the secret Willy's mother kept, 'cos that reflects a secret my father taught me in my childhood.

But the bet standing was to find an actor to be able to stand tall compared to Wilder and Depp and so, Timothee Chalamet was a risky bet but it works. Actually for me it is the 1st time I'm really liking the guy. The director and his vision was also a tricky choice. So, Paul King, the name didn't ring any bell to me. The director of Paddington and Paddington 2, two children films I haven't seen but I heard are very good. Though, something attracted me to Wonka. Might be the chocolate....

Another asset is Hugh Grant, as Lofty, the resourceful Oompa Lumpa, somehow Grant which I couldn't stand in his Rom Com nice boy days I like a lot these days, especially in his collaborations with Guy Ritchie in which he parodies himself silly (The Gentlemen, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre). he came here via Paddington 2, in which he partook.

Good, inspired music by Jody Talbot and Neil Hannon, the guys from the band The Divine Comedy, Chalamet has a good voice and songs and cues are taken from the 1971 film (the Oompa Loompa song, Pure Imagination, etc.). A lot of the score sounded to me like Alexandre Desplat's music for Grand Budapest Hotel, or in that direction. 

Very good choreography and production values a sure plus. The budget sure helps, this is an 125 million $ production, the 1971 film cost then were 3 million $, even compared with inflation it's ten times more, heck of a budget. How many zillions of chocolates it that?

3 1/2 out of 5, 7 out of 10 !

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