Whether or not it ends up in the Oscar race, Warner Bros. Discovery is positioning “Wonka” as a year-end awards season movie. The Paul King-directed prequel to the Roald Dahl novel, specifically the 1971 Gene Wilder-starring adaptation of that book, opens in theaters on Dec. 15. And while the review embargo won’t drop until next week, social media reactions are allowed. So, what do the first critics and journalists to see the Timothée Chalamet-starring musical fantasy think of this potential family-friendly holiday sleeper hit?
Freelance critic and journalist Jeff Ewing noted that “Wonka” was “fine,” noting “solid choreography and production design.” He also expressed his displeasure with a (slight spoiler) subplot involving a character played by Keegan-Michael Key who eats way too many chocolates and eventually becomes a massively overweight version of himself. “Fat jokes were inexcusable. Hoped to go one awards season without a fat suit, but I guess not.”
Meanwhile, journalist Simon Thompson stated that the film didn’t reach the heights of Kings’ two “Paddington” films (an arguably impossible bar to clear), but that “it is still a delightfully sweet treat. Timothée Chalamet’s titular dandy is endearing and fun while Hugh Grant’s Oompa-Loompa steals every scene he is in.”
Zoë Rose Bryant declared “Timothée Chalamet is genuinely so good here, delivering a fresh new interpretation of Willy Wonka that still honors what’s come before, and killing it as both a comedian and a performer.” She also gave props to supporting actors, stating that “Calah Lane is a surefire star-on-the-rise thanks to this tender turn, Hugh Grant is hysterical, & Olivia Colman chews scenery as the sinister Mrs. Scrubbit.”
Courtney Howard, a film critic for Variety, The AVClub and others was a big fan, calling it a “winning confection, filled with perfect amounts of charm, whimsy and poignancy.” She stated that Chalamet was a “charisma factory” and that “Hugh Grant is exceptional DGAF mode.”
TheWrap’s Drew Taylor was also a fan, stating that “Paul King once again proves that he is one of our most exciting filmmakers, creating a world unafraid to go to the dark, strange places that Roald Dahl would.”
While noted contrarian and curmudgeon Scott Mendelson had yet to offer an opinion, TheWrap’s business film reporter — and infamous critical killjoy — stated his bemusement that the film was a surprisingly accurate and realistic look at human trafficking. The picture, first act spoiler, involves the would-be chocolate maker finding himself alongside several other captives as an unwilling prisoner at a crooked room-and-board lodge forced to work off his fraudulent debts.
More reactions, most of them good-to-great, can be found below.