Wonka sets the bar high in a week of festive delights
Wonka Cert: PG, 1hr 56mins ★★★★★ Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget Cert: PG, 1hr 41mins Also on Netflix from Friday ★★★★☆ Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure Of Foggy Mountain Cert: 15, 1hr 32mins ★★★☆☆ Your Christmas Or Mine 2 Cert: PG, 1hr 38mins Available on Amazon ★★★☆☆
Phew! Those with families to entertain this Christmas can finally relax. There will be cinematic treats to be had this festive season, and the best of them is Wonka, a prequel to the much-loved but very strange all-singing, alldancing Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, adapted from Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory more than 50 years ago.
From the moment the young Wonka, quite wonderfully played by Timothée Chalamet, hoves into view, returning from sailing the seven seas for seven years with 12 silver sovereigns in his pocket and the best recipe for chocolate ever, I was hooked. Even the fact that, like its predecessor, this is very much a musical didn’t disturb me.
Neil Hannon, once of the pop group The Divine Comedy, may not be in quite the same class as Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who wrote the songs for the original, but he’s penned one or two absolute belters here.
Wonka has been criticised for lacking the cruel edge, particularly against children, that characterises so much of Dahl’s work and to an extent that’s true. But I loved the extra sweetness. Here what cruelty there is is directed mainly against the naive, childlike and unfortunately illiterate Wonka, who is not only quickly relieved of all 12 of his silver sovereigns but runs up a debt of 10,000 sovereigns by morning.
There’s also the minor matter of the all-powerful chocolate cartel at the Galeries Gourmet, headed by Mr Slugworth, to take on.
From the second adults start floating around the glazed atrium of the Galeries, there are obvious echoes of Mary Poppins, just as the forced labour of the steam laundry run by Mrs Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) and Bleacher (Tom Davis) brings both Oliver! and Sweeney Todd to mind.
Nevertheless, immaculately paced by Paddington director Paul King, Wonka remains a delight in its own right. The production design, which combines a stylised Dickensian London with a fin-de-siecle European look evoking chocolate-loving capitals such as Paris or Vienna, is wonderful.
Among the supporting performances, Paterson Joseph is a joy as Slugworth (a character of the same name is in the original), Hugh Grant a game hoot as a singing, dancing Oompa-Loompa, and Calah
Lane exudes both spirit and charm as Wonka’s young sidekick, Noodle. Put it at the top of your list.
It can be closely followed by Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget, where it takes about 20 minutes to slough off memories of a voice cast once led by Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha and realise that a lot has happened in the 23 years since the Aardman original.
Rocky and Ginger – now voiced by Zachary Levi and Thandiwe Newton – are a couple who live in a freerange-chicken island idyll and have a spirited teenage daughter, Molly, voiced by The Last Of Us and Time star Bella Ramsey.
But then lakeside trees are felled, roads are built and they spot their first lorry adorned with a happylooking chicken in a basket. ‘What chicken doesn’t want their own basket?’ says a feathered innocent. And suddenly the impetuous Molly is off on a solo adventure, little knowing that she’s heading straight for Mrs Tweedy’s (yes, Miranda Richardson returns) hightech nugget factory. What ensues is a bit weird but also clever and very funny.
With a clumsy title like Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure Of Foggy Mountain you might expect some sort of family-friendly treasurehunt film. But the 15 certificate and the presence of Judd Apatow as producer quickly puts you right on that score – this is a comedy for older teenagers and young adults very much in the tradition of Dumb And Dumber, Superbad and Harold And Kumar.
A trio of Saturday Night Live grads, Martin Herlihy, John Higgins and Ben Marshall, both write and star, playing three former childhood friends who, at the age of 26, are beginning to grow apart. Until they discover what the compass they found as boys is actually for and set off on one last friendship-testing adventure. It’s patchy but very funny in parts.
Your Christmas Or Mine 2 is the modestly awaited sequel to last Christmas’s festive crowd-pleaser and sees the working-class Taylor family once again clashing comedy swords with the posh Hugheses, this time on a Christmas skiing holiday in Austria.
Can the love shared by James (Asa Butterfield) and Hayley (Cora Kirk) survive another battering at the class divide?
It’s clunkily contrived but the leads still work well together, there’s broad comedy support from Daniel Mays, Angela Griffin and Alex Jennings and a surprisingly effective third act. Just about hits the spot.
dmg media (UK)