It’s Friday the 13th in the month of October as we approach Samhain and what cursed object has befallen us? Why, it’s a new trailer for Wonka, the most cursed movie this year! I am really, REALLY trying to give this movie the benefit of the doubt, because it’s directed by Paul King of Paddington and Paddington 2 fame but y’all, I am struggling. This movie just looks…so bad. It starts with Timothee Chalamet playing a young Willy Wonka like a theater kid at a callback. There’s energy, but it’s not Wonka energy. Wonka’s a bastard! If we know anything about Willy Wonka is that he loves two things: enslaving Oompa Loompas and murdering children. This trailer does tease Wonka’s life-long obsession with capturing Oompa Loompas and forcing them to work for him, but there’s no child murder!
Sarah, it’s a prequel, you might say. This is before Willy Wonka becomes a bastard. Okay but…shouldn’t Chalamet’s performance have some noticeable connective tissue with Gene Wilder’s performance as the older, sourer Wonka? That’s my problem with The Fall of the House of Usher, too, the multi-generational actors aren’t connecting their performances so that it believably feels like they’re playing the same person, albeit on different points on the timeline. I’m not getting Willy Wonka from Timothee Chalamet, I’m getting a theater skit version of Willy Wonka toned down for modern audiences that no longer like anything the least bit scary in their children’s films.
What I’m saying is—Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a relic from a time when kid-friendly films were still allowed to be weird and a little scary, but kids’ movies cannot be even kind of creepy anymore, so Wonka will, by default, be an anodyne, toothless version of one of children’s literature’s greatest creeps.
To say something nice about Wonka, I don’t hate Hugh Grant as Lofty the Oompa Loompa. He is by far the creepiest thing in the Wonka trailer, the ONLY creepy thing in the Wonka trailer, the only trace left of Roald Dahl’s twisted chocolatier and his factory of candied horrors. Grant was SO good in Paddington 2, and he seems to understand the world of Willy Wonka is supposed to be a little bit scary—much as the adult world seems a little bit scary to kids! It’s almost like letting fear into kids’ stories serves a purpose and we’re doing kids a disservice by assuming they can’t handle a little darkness!—maybe he can pull out a miracle here and save Wonka from itself. Probably not, but we’ll see when the clock tolls three times and the crone’s curse is upon us, aka when Wonka hits theaters in December.
Here's Timmy out for coffee the other day in LA.