Wonka: First reactions hail Timothée Chalamet as ‘endlessly charming’ lead

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The long-awaited Charlie and the Charlie Factory prequel musical Wonka held its world premiere in London on Tuesday (28 November), with early social media reactions praising the film as a “sweet treat” and singling out the lead performance by Timothée Chalamet.

Wonka, directed by Paddington and Paddington 2 filmmaker Paul King, casts Chalamet as a younger version of the titular chocolatier. The supporting cast includes Keegan-Michael Key, Matt Lucas, Sally Hawkins, Rowan Atkinson, Olivia Colman and Hugh Grant.

Reacting to the film on X/Twitter, RogertEbert.com Associate Editor Robert Daniels wrote: “I surprisingly, mostly, enjoyed Wonka. Timothée Chalamet is a really gifted comedic actor, smartly leveraging his star persona for laughs. The staging is good and there’s lots of heart and whimsy.”

However, Daniels took issue with one element of Wonka. “I did not however like the barrage of fat jokes,” he wrote. “Poor form in a delightful film.”

Elsewhere, BleedingCool.com Editor-in-Chief Kaitlyn Booth wrote that Chalamet’s performance brought to mind Gene Wilder, who famously played Wonka in the 1971 film adaptation Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Wonka took me by surprise with how much I liked it,” wrote Booth. “It’s whimsical and taps into that sense of wonder we got from the original while doing its own thing. Timothée Chalamet channels the energy of Gene without doing an impression. Great family film for the holidays.”

Freelance film critic Zoë Rose Bryant called Wonka an “instant holiday classic & a truly magical time at the movies”.

She added: “Paul King’s whimsical style works as well here as it did in Paddington, every musical number enchants, & the entire ensemble takes turns stealing the show, led by an endlessly charming Timothée Chalamet.”

Meanwhile, Beyond The Trailer host Grace Randolph said that “Wonka is SHOCKINGLY good”. She added: “Paul King delivers a movie along the lines of Paddington for adults turning Wonka into a male Mary Poppins! The movie manages to be its own thing and is as fun as seeing a live Broadway show! Definitely this year’s big holiday movie!”

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Earlier this year, King revealed that Wonka stars had been submerged in real warm chocolate that “tasted as good as it looked” on the set of the prequel.

For a scene in which Noodle, a friend of Wonka’s played by Calah Lane, is dunked in a giant vat of chocolate, King explained, “We actually made an enormous vat of hot chocolate – not scalding, just warm hot chocolate for them to immerse themselves in. So there was a lot of chocolate around.”

Wonka is out in cinemas in the United Kingdom on 8 December and in the United States on 15 December.