Wonka is ‘relentlessly wacky and over the top’

But that’s not all. A remarkable percentage of the running time is taken up by Willy being forced to work in a launderette by two Dickensian grotesques played by Tom Davis and Olivia Colman (who, judging by her performance here, should really have been cast as Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical). There are also subplots in which Willy has to learn to read, borrow a giraffe from a zoo, find the parents of his streetwise sidekick Noodles (Calah Lane), and break into the villains’ lair, which happens to be directly beneath a cathedral. All of these hijinks are heightened by the brightly coloured stripy costumes, the Heath-Robinson inventions, oodles of Dahl-esque wordplay, and a range of clever Berlin cabaret numbers and Broadway show tunes by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy. There’s also a generous helping of syrupy sentimentality. Between this and his two Paddingtons, it’s clear that King likes his films to be more twee than their source novels, so anyone without a seriously sweet tooth may feel queasy before the end.

Overall, then, Wonka seems to be straining every sinew to be the best possible family entertainment at cinemas this Christmas. It throws in everything, kitchen sink included. But what it doesn’t have is one strong, gripping plot to build momentum and raise the pulse rate. It doesn’t convince you that Willy’s back story ever needed to be told. Slotting together bits from Mary Poppins, Sweeney Todd, Oliver Twist, and more besides, it’s less like a finely crafted chocolate gateau than one of those selection boxes that contains several brand-name chocolate bars, all wrapped in garish plastic packaging. As it drifts back and forth between the launderette and the city square, between the present day and mawkish flashbacks to the past, it doesn’t quite get going. And it keeps you waiting for a moment that will make you gasp or laugh out loud, as so much of Paddington 2 did. Chalamet, as talented as he is, is neither a great singer nor a great comedian, and he hasn’t worked out how to make Willy anything beyond a gurning goofball. It’s a relief when Hugh Grant shows up as a snooty, orange-faced Oompa-Loompa called Lofty, but beware, it’s a cameo appearance which includes precious few scenes that aren’t in the trailer.

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