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Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Olivia Colman, Calah Lane, Patterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Jim Carter, Mathew Baynton, Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins, Keegan-Michael Key, Rufus Jones

Director: Paul King

A decent prequel to Roald Dahl's Chocolate Factory classic, with some lively new times - I especially liked the cleverly-choreographed Scrub Scrub - and a couple of the originals, handed by Chalamet in much the same wistful style as Gene Wilder in the unbeatable 1971 film.

They've given the master chocolatier a largely entertaining backstory here, as Willy, whose 12-sovereign savings soon disappear after he docks in some mittel-European principality - where he quickly falls foul of landlady Mrs Scrubbit (a rasplngly good Colman, evidently basing her huge bosom on Emma Thompson's in Matilda).

Granted a room for the night, the naive young Wonka fails to read Mrs S's contract's small print and, failing to make his fortune in one day, thanks to the Macchiavellan machinations of the city's three (crooked) chocolate kings (Joseph, Lucas, Baynton) finds himself consigned to the never-ending laundry in the Scrubbits' basement.

We suffer rather too many dull bits in the adventures that follow, in a film seemingly in thrall to the Wilder movie rather than the Johnny Depp remake. There are one or two darker moments that would undoubtedly please Dahl, but the fleet-footed Chalomet keeps the tone light and creates a magical if gentle character.

Grant chews the scenery in droll fashion as the orange-faced Oompa-Loompa destined to become head O-L at Wonka's factory, while Atkinson's a hoot as a highly bribable cleric whose luxury lift is operated by a lever shaped like a crucifix.

Thought it hasn't quite the charm of Wilder's Wonka, there's enough colour, enchantment and downright fun here to keep kids, especially those coming new to the Wonka legend, pretty happy.

David Quinlan

USA/UK 2023. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by DCP.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 06 Dec 2023