The following contains major spoilers for Wonka, now playing in theaters.
Willy Wonka is one of Hollywood’s most iconic characters. His story is adapted from a Roald Dahl novel from 1964 and has yielded two movies: 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder as the titular character, and Tim Burton’s 2005 remake, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory where Johnny Depp played the lead. Now, Warner Bros. is retelling Willy Wonka’s journey in the form of an origin story with Timothée Chalamet in Wonka.
Chalamet’s younger Wonka is kinder and a lot more endearing than past interpretations. His travels bring him to England, where he hopes to build his confectionery empire and honor his deceased mother, the person who hoped he’d share the allure, taste and magic of chocolate and sweets with the world. However, Wonka finds himself in grave danger, as the “Chocolate Cartel” in London decides he has to die because they can’t stand how he encroaches on their monopoly. This stranglehold they have leads to an emotional ending where Wonka shows his perseverance, resilience and how the concept of family can really elevate people to success.
Willy Wonka Creates a Sweet Heist
Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory was one of secrecy. The cheerful songsters Oompa Loompas revealed the dirty truth behind the chocolatier’s success.
The cartel consists of Slugworth, Prodnose and Fickelgruber, who have secretly formed a conglomerate. While they sell diluted chocolate to the masses, they hoard the best for themselves in giant vats. Unfortunately, when Willy Wonka’s illegal chocolate trade starts cutting into their profits, they broker a sinister deal to have him shipped out. It’s the only way to save his friends and buy their freedom from Mrs. Scrubbit and her henchman, Bleacher.
Thankfully, Wonka survives his boat blowing up, and returns to partner with his friends Noodle, Abacus, Lottie, Larry and Piper. Together, they go on an Ocean’s Eleven heist to infiltrate the Church that’s hiding the cartel’s ledger about their illicit dealings, from bribes to laundering, to many other infractions. However, the cartel intercepts Wonka and Noodle, placing them into a clarifier of giant chocolate to die. Luckily, Hugh Grant’s Oompa Loompa (aka Lofty whom Wonka owes a debt) returns to help free the heroes. It’s partly because he has a hero inside and wants to screw over the cartel, but mostly, to protect his investment.
Wonka eventually uses the book to expose the corruption of the cartel. The villains, along with the corrupt Chief of Police (played by Keegan-Michael Key), get arrested for manipulating the market, and for almost killing Wonka and Noodle. Throw in sabotage such as when they poisoned Wonka’s chocolate to ruin the opening of his store, and it goes back to karma. The ledger further exposes Scrubbit and Bleacher, who tricked people with their hostel, only to run them up huge bills and enslave them so that they could pay it off in servitude. They get arrested too in Wonka’s post-credits, reiterating how well the heist has worked.
Wonka Is a Statement Against White Collar Crime
Paul King shares the possibility of Wonka 2 ahead of the upcoming musical fantasy film starring Timothée Chalamet.
Scrubbit and Bleacher are definitely huge statements about exploitation. The fact they imprison people for years to wash laundry beneath the hostel and make money helped motivate Wonka. It inspired him to sell chocolate, make money and buy the freedom of the crew he met down below. As fate would have it, the cartel helps him out, but Noodle is the only one Scrubbit keeps.
Wonka figures out why, as Slugworth’s chocolate empire should have been hers. Noodle is actually his niece, but after her father died, Slugworth faked the baby’s death, hid her at the laundromat, and sent her heartbroken mother, Dorothy, away. This inheritance allowed Slugworth to work with his ‘rivals,’ cornering the market with the Chief overseeing all their corruption. It’s capitalism in full-swing, which is something Wonka detests.
The Church also willingly formed part of their empire, hiding all sorts of sordid secrets until Team Wonka (aka the Wash House Gang) broke in and dropped the curtain on their ruse. With everyone taken down, Willy finally frees up the market, making it fair for all tradesmen, while reminding London not to trust organized religion. It’s a cheeky shot at the double standards of places of worship, who partner with the state for benefits — in this case, not tax breaks, but chocolate rewards.
Wonka Is All About Togetherness
Wonka will feature singing and dancing, but director Paul King insists the movie is not really a musical.
Throughout Wonka, the chocolate maker and genius inventor wants to attain that feeling he had when his mother made chocolate for him. Sadly, she passed away when he was a child, so by sharing this gift with the world, Wonka thinks he’ll see her again. With everyone happy and feasting on these sweet delights he conjured, Wonka opens the last bar she gave him. He’s stunned to find a message written on it, on a golden ticket of all things. It’s a nice nod to that lore when he would offer children golden tickets and a chance to come inherit his kingdom.
Wonka is touched by what’s written. His mother makes it clear, it’s not about the quality of the chocolate or the ingredients within. It’s about the person one shares these sentimental moments with, which spurs him to break it into pieces and give to his squad. This scene homages when Charlie would do the same in the films, sharing chocolate with his family to remind viewers, once there is love in a poor home, that family is quite rich. Wonka and his friends celebrate, especially knowing they proved Noodle wrong. She always believed the greedy would win, but together, they defied the odds in a warm story that explains Wonka’s Rotten Tomatoes score being so impressive.
Her story is capped when Wonka makes one last move. He always wanted to be a magician, and using the team, they pull off one last miracle: finding Dorothy. Wonka remixes the emblematic “Pure Imagination” by taking Noodle to meet her mother. It’s a tear-jerking reunion — something she previously deemed “a world of pure imagination” — which brings Wonka’s story full-circle. Earlier, he saw his mother in the crowd, waving goodbye and accepting his kiss, which means he finally has closure. Now, he offers the same closure to Noodle as she’s reunited with the lady whom thought she was dead. In her case, life is her pivot, leaving Wonka grateful he could share in this experience.
Wonka Becomes the King of Chocolate
Wonka’s Paul King reveals how he managed to convince his Paddington 2 collaborator Hugh Grant to portray an Oompa Loompa in the upcoming prequel.
Wonka concludes with the titular hero thanking Lofty (aka the “Funny Little Man”) for his services. Conversely, Lofty is impressed by Wonka’s deeds. But rather than head back to Loompaland, Lofty decides to stay. It doesn’t take much for Wonka to sway him after finding out he got bullied back home. A vulnerable Lofty then reveals his real name, Shorty Pants. While he’s cynical Wonka can create a kingdom, the inventor proves him wrong once more.
Wonka attains a castle and turns it into a regal factory, equipped with chocolate waterfalls, edible flowers and much more from the source material. Shorty Pants will be his chief taste-tester, helping look after the workforce. This sets the stage for them to bring over Oompa Loompas who are looking for work, and to figure out a way to increase the cocoa yield from Loompaland. What’s more is that there’s no animal brutality, worker exploitation or harsh conditions from the other cinematic classics adapted from Dahl’s signature book. This is a business partnership with a lot more heart and soul, and the Ooompa Loompa having more agency.
At this point, Shorty Pants calls the debt even, recognizing he is better off with Wonka at this new palace. He can tell Wonka wants to make the world a better place, with his childlike innocence being the perfect way to set an example. Wonka’s selflessness aside, Shorty Pants senses that by sharing the amazing chocolate to come, he can make a difference as well and prove he always had a greater destiny. Ultimately, both men may banter a lot and have unique styles, but Shorty Pants sees this as a brotherhood that can indeed create a more loving world.
Wonka is currently in theaters.
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