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Is The New ‘Wonka’ Movie A Musical?

Wonka Timothee Chalamet
Warner Bros.

Next weekend sees the release of Wonka, a prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or, as the 1971 film version was called it, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) that offers an origin story for children’s lit’s most popular chocolatier. Both that and Tim Burton’s 2005 version Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were movie musicals. So what’s the deal with Wonka?

The answer is, yep, it sure is a musical. Timothée Chalamet is no professional singer, and yet there is, warbling up a storm as the young Wonka. (Then again, neither Gene Wilder nor Johnny Depp, Chalamet’s Wonka predecessors, were crooners either, and they did just fine.) The film’s director, Paul King, thinks he’s got pipes. He even compared him to no less than Bing Crosby.

As for Wonka’s bona fides as a musical, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman says it’s so old-fashioned it “may be the squarest big-scale Hollywood musical in decades.” He added:

How square is it? In an era that has given us such visionary next-level musicals as “La La Land,” “Moulin Rouge!,” and the shockingly underrated “The Greatest Showman,” as well as such hip and vibrant Broadway adaptations as “Chicago,” “Hairspray,” “In the Heights,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Les Misérables,” and “Rent,” “Wonka,” as directed and co-written by Paul King (who made the “Paddington” films), plays like a more visually limber version of some singing-and-dancing relic from the late-studio-system era of “Oliver!” (1968) and “Scrooge” (1970). It’s so square it makes “Mary Poppins Returns” look edgy.

So there you go. Wonka isn’t just a musical. It’s a square musical. With a guy who hasn’t sung onscreen before. But if Chalamet really is like Bing Crosby, wait till you hear him sing like Bob Dylan.