Chocolate twee

Since Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp have already portrayed Roald Dahl’s mad chocolatier to reasonably good effect, the obvious Hollywood-think way to go would be a prequel, an origin story. Hmmm.

Not the sort of thing I would normally be drawn to, but the director is Paul King, who made the two Paddington Bear movies so comically sweet. And the cast looked great. In addition to Timothee Chalamet in the title role, we have the always fascinating Olivia Colman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jim Carter, and cameos by Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins and Hugh Grant as the Oompa Loompa. So, open mind and all that.

Story has to do with an impoverished Willie Wonka arriving in a city known for its chocolates armed only with his late mother’s amazing recipe. He is soon thwarted by the existing chocolate cartel and venal police, and locked up.

It’s a (groan) musical featuring Chalamet hoofing and warbling his way through a succession of lavishly executed but mostly forgettable routines. Tim is a talented guy (Dune) and he does okay here, but this is not his forte. Plus he lacks Wilder’s or Depp’s manic edge.

Entertaining to a point, it’s not terrible, but it’s so colossally twee that only little kids will like it. But it’ll then lose them in the third act when the plot becomes ungainly and hopelessly convoluted.

We’re told this is “based on characters” created Roald Dahl. Dahl made up some of the world’s most beloved fantasy stories, but just coopting some characters doesn’t automatically bring with it the magic that made the writer’s best stories work. Dahl would spit this confection out. Actually made me want to lay off the chocolate for a bit. (116 min)

Check it out on cinemas here