I really wasn’t in the market for a Willy Wonka prequel, I did not think it sounded like a worthwhile idea, or that this new movie WONKA looked good, as much as I enjoyed director Paul King’s two PADDINGTON movies. So I wasn’t even planning to see it until it turned out to be the first thing showing at the SIFF Cinema Downtown, formerly Cinerama (1963-2020). It has been my theater of record for decades, but after owner Paul Allen died the people running his company wondered “What is there to gain from maintaining a beloved city institution?” and closed it shortly before the pandemic. We all assumed the worst for a couple years, but thankfully the Seattle International Film Festival organization acquired the theater (just not the name) and fuck it, if they were showing WONKA I was gonna see WONKA. I’ve seen so many Star Warses and Batmen and Tarantinos and 70mm retrospectives in there over the past 25 years, waiting in long lines, feeling the excitement of the crowded lobby as they take my ticket, but this is the first time the excitement was only about being in the building.
So I had no expectations for WONKA, but if I had, it would’ve exceeded them. It’s a sweet and funny old fashioned movie musical with a surprising amount of the Roald Dahl spirit. That includes not just inventing new whimsical confectionary innovations that make people hover, sprout green fur or grow the confidence to improve their relationships, not just colorful names and word play, but also a preference for the Dickensian poor over the arrogant rich, and a morbid fascination with ugly awful jerks worthy of the Twits, the Trunchbull, Aunts Sponge and Spiker, etc. When Bleacher (Tom Davis, PREVENGE), the lovelorn henchman of exploitative boarding house owner Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman, LOCKE), first smiled I realized that his craggy rows of teeth really looked like a scribbly Quentin Blake drawing. (read the rest of this shit…)