Wonka Is Wonderful But Part of His Backstory Makes Absolutely No Sense


Although conversation may have momentarily shifted away from Paul King’s wonderful musical Wonka and over to the short-lived waking nightmare that was Glasgow’s Willy Wonka Experience, this prequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has now come to streaming, so we can enjoy the taste all over again. As we mentioned at the time in our review, and our chats with director Paul King and producer David Heyman, it’s a good hearted, funny, and joyful romp. Timothée Chalamet is charming and captivating; Olivia Colman is wonderfully larger than life; Hugh Grant is grouchy and funny; and Sally Hawkins as Willy’s mum is… a terrible mother.

Chalamet’s Willy was raised by his mother and, as he explains to the young orphan Noodle (Calah Lane), his love of chocolate and invention came from her. He misses her throughout the film and hopes their shared love of chocolate will at least make her feel close at the opening of the chocolate shop he fought so hard for. But at the opening he’s disappointed he can’t feel her there.

Only when he has finally thwarted the chocolate cartel, saved his friends, and made up his mind to continue with his dream does he finally see a vision of his mother through the crowd. He finally opens the last chocolate bar he gave her and reads what she wrote on the golden paper in beautiful script (surely a precursor to the idea of the golden tickets from the original story). “The secret is it’s not the chocolate that matters, but who you share it with,” Willy reads—the last message from his mother. He shares the chocolate with his friends and knows it’s all the sweeter in the sharing.

Yeah. Except his mother didn’t actually teach Willy to read despite having excellent penmanship herself! It’s a doubly cruel joke, then, sticking a handwritten note into her last bar of chocolate when for all she knows, it’ll be complete gobbledegook when he opens it. Not your finest hour, Mrs. Wonka. Or indeed series of hours, since Willy wasn’t a tiny child when his mother passed away, so she absolutely could have given him a basic understanding of reading and writing, which no doubt would have stood him in good stead when it came to writing down recipes, reading maps, and not signing a dangerous and fraudulent contract at the boarding house he rocks up at after he first arrives in Europe and meets the dastardly Scrubbit and Bleacher.

And really this inability to read the contract is the only true necessity for the plot point that he can’t read. There’s a bit of slapstick in the Zoo when Willy can’t read which animals are in which enclosures, but that feels like a bit of added-on play. Surely better to come up with another reason why the contract should pass Willy by than one that makes you question the judgment of Willy’s mum, his lifelong role model. Indeed Noodle does manage to teach Willy to read, at a surprisingly sophisticated level over what seems to be a fairly short period of time. It’s almost like the literacy equivalent of a training montage. While this rounds things out nicely for Willy and his happy ending, looked at more closely it seems worse that Willy’s mother never taught him. He clearly has an aptitude and it wouldn’t have taken that long. 

Or if you’re really not going to teach him to read, at least draw him a nice picture to go in the chocolate just on the off chance that he doesn’t become fully literate before he opens it…

Wonka is available to stream on MAX

The post Wonka Is Wonderful But Part of His Backstory Makes Absolutely No Sense appeared first on Den of Geek.

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