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Wonka screening at the Jones Theater

My hunch is that in the movie biz, it takes some mixture of courage, super creativity, and a pinch of foolishness to build a film on the foundation of a blockbuster prede­cessor. The consensus is that Wonka, a prequel to 1971’s amazingly entertaining and provocative Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring the late Gene Wilder, has pulled off a winner of a family friendly movie that will warm kids and adults alike in this chilly season.

You have a chance to see for yourself by carefully wending your snowy way to the historic Jones Theater this weekend, gathering up some popcorn, and grinning throughout the local silver screen offering of Wonka.

Some snooty critics who choose to snarl at anything they don’t consider “a perfect movie” snipe away at comparisons, intentionality of production teams, blah blah blah, even taking into consideration gross capi­talism. You can choose to happily ignore them, and go enjoy yourself! Join with the critic who confesses writ­ing in her notebook during the showing, “Oh my god, this is working!”

And speaking of “a perfect movie,” a “perfect” re-telling, or pre-telling exploration like Wonka is a film that would make viewers familiar with the 1971 cine­matic tale want to see it again, right now…and for those who may not have seen Willie Wonka and the Choco­late Factory, want to see it, right now! Viewer fans are saying that’s their experience, so maybe this is a kind of “perfect film” after all!

James Berardinelli, writing on our near namesake ReelViews, points out that while moving forward—or backward I guess, in a prequel—from a familiar movie, Wonka “is nevertheless a fun and imaginative family film…manag[ing] the difficult task of resurrecting the blended sweetness and nastiness of the original confection.”

Berardinelli also belabors the obvious reality of other 2023 movies: they weren’t particularly good family enter­tainment. “Most releases have either been too childish for adults to enjoy or too ‘mature’ for younger kids to appreci­ate.” Welcome Wonka!

This Willy though, does get into a great dip of trouble with the local chocolate syndicate, loses his investment in his start up, and has to wend his way out from under the likes of—ya gotta love this—characters named Slugworth, Prodnose, and Fickelgruber. Further, he is helped out of his messy troubles by Abacus Crunch, Noodle, and the Oom­pa-Loompa Lofty (Hugh Grant, no less!).

By the way, this is also a musical to boot, and the whimsical songs, some of them redone from the 1971 Wonka, will most likely delight. Some critics do warn us that the lead, Timo­thee Chalamet, is a terrible singer; while there may be some charm in that, viewers may find it “an exercise in endurance.”

Critics, as Berardinelli has, have not refrained from punning their way through claiming the film is “a sweet treat,” “a heavenly little concoction,” “a scrumiddlyump­tious surprise,” “gooey as a marshmallow dipped in a chocolate fountain,” and so on. To me, that’s an indication you’re going to have some fun this weekend while taking in Wonka.

The historic Jones opens its doors a half hour before show times tomorrow and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., and Sunday, January 14, at 2 p.m. Tickets are sold at prices the nasty chocolate syndicate characters would never tolerate in any town, let alone Westcliffe.

– W.A. Ewing

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