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The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

Review: Chalamet shines in his very own world of pure imagination

Chalamet and Wilder as the illustrious Willy Wonka (Courtesy of The Ringer/Warner Bros./Paramount Pictures)

Hello, my Letterboxd Lovelies!

It’s your favorite and most bestest, amazing-est movie-sorry, film critic, IWuvMyPeachyWeachyTimmyKins4000 back and better than ever. 

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my recent hiatus; I know four years, eleven months and twenty-two days seems like a while, and I sincerely apologize for leaving you all in the dark like that. It’s just that I contracted dysentery from my Starbucks Venti Mocha Vanilla Frutti Tutti Pink Frappuccino Drink and fell into a coma for about… four years, eleven months and ten days! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the real reason you’re all here: my review of Wonka, starring none other than my favey-wavy Timmy Hally Chally Wally! 

Sorry guys, my sister got into my computer, again. The last time she did this, she wrote this whole series about some guy named “Benedict Cumberbatch”, on this site called “Wattpad.” But enough of that.

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From his hypnotizingly purple suit to his witty (and sometimes psychotic) humor, to his… horizontally challenged workers, Willy Wonka is one of the most recognizable and iconic figures in American media.

So for any actor, a role like Wonka would be a dream… right?


The issue is, that Gene Wilder, (who played the Wonka described above), did a little too good of a job, so essentially everyone who will ever do the role after him will be doing so in his humongous shadow. Actors will face being brutally and painstakingly compared and criticized based on Wilder’s performance until the end of time.

But there is another way, a better way. Instead of replicating Wilder’s Wonka, Johnny Depp and now Timothee Chalamet have made it their own, in their own little way.

Now I’ve yapped enough, you must be wondering, what is Wonka about?

Wonka, directed by Paul King, features a cast that reads like a who’s who of comedy royalty. The film follows Willy Wonka, played by Timothee Chalamet as he works to achieve his dream of being a famous chocolatier with the help of little orphan Noodle, played by Calah Lane.

As the titular character arrives in the big city, he immediately discovers how expensive the city is, forced to spend his first night out on the street. In a stroke of luck, he finds a place to stay at Miss Scrubitt’s only to find he’s been swindled into a lifetime of free labor to pay off his debt. Dejected, Wonka gets only a little bit of joy giving Noodle her first taste of chocolate. Inspired, she hatches a plan for them to sell their chocolate, that is, until the evil Medellin Chocolate Cartel, Arthur Slugworth (played by Paterson Joseph), Gerald Prodnose (played by Matt Lucas) and Felix Fickelgruber (played by Matthew Baynton), discover their activities.

The devilish trio of Fickelgruber, Slugworth and Prodnose make up the Medellin Chocolate Cartel (Courtesy of Warner Bros./Empire)

The Medellin Chocolate Cartel is headed by the comically greedy chief of the city’s most popular chocolate companies. They maintain control over the lucrative candy-making business, by watering down their chocolate and driving competitors out of town. By bribing a set of “chocolate-obsessed monks,” they set up a secret hide-out with gallons and gallons of chocolate in a secret lair under a cathedral.

To top their laundry list of devious deeds, after Arthur Slugworth’s brother, (the original heir to the Slugworth fortune), died, his daughter and heir “disappeared.” As it happens, Noodle was that little girl and Slugworth had her shipped to Ms. Scrubitt to protect his fortune.

With the help of a charming musical number, the Cartel bribes the chocolate-obsessed Chief of Police to jail Wonka and disappear Noodle for good, but to no avail. Wonka’s treats are too popular and his methods too clever. That is until a stray scarf reveals that Willy and crew have been using the city’s sewer system to hide from the police.

Armed with this information, the police quickly find and imprison Noodle and Wonka, turning them over to the Cartel. To get rid of Wonka once and for all, they leave him and Noodle to drown in a colossal vat of chocolate.

All the while, a singular Oompa-Loompa, played by Hugh Grant, shadows Wonka, stealing his chocolates every step of the way. When caught, he explains that Willy deprived his home island of their only source of cocoa beans, (which he was supposed to be guarding), and must repay his debt by pilfering Wonka.

Determined to get his payment, the little cocoa addict drains the vat and rescues Noodle and Wonka, just in time for them to see the police catch the Cartel leaders.

Noodle discovers that her mother, a librarian, lives and is reunited with her as Wonka closes out the movie, offering the Oompa Loompa a job in his factory and a peppy rendition of the classic song, “Pure Imagination.”


Ugh, my stupid brother finally went to bed so now we can talk about the REAL DEAL.

When Timmy first got on screen, I was so excited, I tinkled myself a lil! Then he started singing and I was transported to an entirely different world!

His luscious, bright-toned voice was like audible gold to my ears as his vivacious curls bounced to the beat of his drums. I am confident the whole audience was as raptly fixed to the screen as I was when he began to move his delicate little feet and dance! Timothee Chalamet danced! In the middle of the street too! I didn’t know you could do that, but I suppose everything is possible in Hollywood.


But fine, in REALITY, Chalamet actually did a pretty good job on the singing.

He went to LaGuardia, (think HSPVA, but the kids ACTUALLY have the talent to match their egos), so it’s not unbelievable that he’s been in something that required singing, but it is definitely a departure from his usual work.

His opener, “A World of Your Own,” really sets the tone for the whole movie; that is, a series of upbeat Broadway-style ensemble numbers. Though I hate to agree with my sister, he really did impress me with his light, bright tone and expressive phrasing. Paired with some relaxed choreography, we get to follow Chalamet as he explores his new environment and spreads his optimistic spirit like the flu.

Though “Wonka” is a kid’s movie, the performances of the aforementioned star-studded cast certainly lift Chalamet’s up. With Oscar winner Olivia Coleman playing the wicked Ms. Scrubitt, Jim Carter from “Downton Abbey” as Abacus Crunch, and Natasha Rothwell from “Insecure,” this movie was certain to be chock-full of laughs.

My favorite performance aside from Chalamet came from the Scrubitt crew of Abacus Crunch, Piper Benz, Lottie Bell and Larry Chucklesworth. Crunch, a former accountant for the evil Mr. Slugworth, is the reason of the group, calming them with his clever quips and warm chidings. Chucklesworth and Benz bring levity to the group with their wacky and often badly timed jokes. And once Lottie finds her voice, she’s undoubtedly the sunflower of the group, lightening the mood with her sunny disposition. And whenever they’re together on screen, you can tell this group really do see each other as one big, (dysfunctional) family.

One of the best performances of the movie came from young Calah Lane as Noodle. In her performance, Lane steers clear of the “little orphan Annie” stereotype so often seen in musicals. Witty, kind and industrious, Chalamet as Wonka gives Noodle a ray of hope, and Lane runs with it. Lane takes her time easing into her friendship with Wonka before letting his magic sweep her away in the song, “For a Moment.”

Wonka and Noodle (Chalamet and Lane) share a touching moment in the song “For a Moment” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

This delightful ballad finds the two in the Zoo, trying to replace Wonka’s giraffe milk supply, an essential ingredient in his chocolate. I felt completely taken up by the magic of the world as the pair floated across the Zoo on the tails of balloons, the wind caught in their wings. For the first time in the whole film, Zoe feels truly free; almost like a kid should be. It was a wonderful addition that solidly established the relationship between Wonka and Noodle and aligns perfectly with the warm, cozy feeling typical of Paul King films.

My only real gripe with this film was the rapid change in pace towards the end. For most of the movie, things seemed to be going according to plan. Of course, going in sight unseen, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but even the plot twists and bumps had quite clear paths to their solutions and were smoothed over well. Even though we do get a hint of the nefarious deeds of the Chocolate Cartel, we don’t get to the whole heist plotline until, in my opinion, far too close to the end of the film. But, I digress, and far too often.

I must end this review with some honesty. Though not as much a fan as my dear sister, I like Timothee Chalamet’s movies, but I did go into this film already prepped to slam him. However, in the course of writing this story, I came to a realization, a nirvana, of sorts.

This. Is. A. Kids. Movie.

There’s no sense in slamming Chalamet for not being Chalamet when that’s not what this film is about. Yes, it is a thousand percent a difficult role to reprise, but neither this nor Johnny Depp’s movies were reprisals, they were retellings.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published by Roald Dahl, a man born at the height of the British Empire, in 1964, when the Beatles were topping the charts. Not to mention, the original Gene Wilder version came out in 1971, three years before my FATHER was born. We live in a completely different world from even 2005, when Depp’s version was released and if it was the same story over, and over, and OVER again, who would care?

No one. The answer is no one.

So yes, a lot of the time I did just see the guy from “Call Me By Your Name,” but that’s okay, my childhood, like so many of yours will soon be, is over and this film isn’t for me anymore.

This movie is for the kid whose biggest source of anxiety is the end-of-the-week spelling quiz; who brags about his reading level and Minecraft worlds; who buries his head in Geronimo Stilton and Percy Jackson; who sees the World as one big amusement park, ripe for the taking. And for that, Chalamet and the whole cast did an excellent job.


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About the Contributor
Joseph Mutagaya
Joseph Mutagaya, Arts and Entertaiment Editor
Joseph Mutagaya is a currently a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. He loves acting for Carnegie Theatre, listening to music like SZA, Brent Faiyaz, and Alex G, and playing lacrosse. He loves his two younger siblings, (most of the time), and most of all, he loves writing for the Upstream News!
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