Wonka Trailer Recalls a Joke From Tropic Thunder and Not in a Good Way


One of the best gags in Ben Stiller’s still infamous Tropic Thunder occurs before the credits and even the studio’s title card. Because in 2008, there was at least half a minute where audiences believed they were watching real trailers and commercials for the popular genres of that time: action movie franchises which were long in the tooth; gross-out PG-13 comedies with aging movie stars; and the type of heavy-handed message Oscar bait that would’ve totally caused protests at the multiplex when Robert Downey Jr. made out with a post-Spider-Man Tobey Maguire.

The sequence is still funny, even as the joke has aged quite a bit itself during the last 15 years. Today, raunchy comedies, as well as laughers of any kind, have been largely banished to the realm of streaming; awards-friendly films rarely make a blip in the pop culture mainstream, even if it features several superhero actors locking lips; and rather than roll their eyes at the sixth installment in a movie series, audiences and critics are eagerly lining up for the seventh, eighth, and 10th installments in a franchise.

In other words, if you were to do a fake parody trailer of the pop culture trends of 2023, they’d look less like Scorcher VI and Satan’s Abbey… and maybe a whole lot like the Wonka trailer that just dropped. In that first teaser, among other things, we get to witness the BAFTA-nominated and respected British actor Hugh Grant play a CGI-caked Oompa Loompa who bends over for the camera while singing a ditty intended to trigger nostalgia for parental (and even grand-parental) audiences between the ages of 30 and 60.

We don’t mean to judge a book by its cover, and certainly suggest going into Wonka with an open mind. Nonetheless, the trailer seems to bask in the image of Timothée Chalamet—another Oscar nominee due to sensitive, heart-rending work in Call Me By Your Name, as well as a burgeoning movie star after Dune—wearing Gene Wilder’s top hat and saying, “I’m making chocolate, of course! How do you like it?!” Might we suggest without the self-parody?

If one were to make a satire of Hollywood studios’ current obsession with mining their vaults for every last scrap of intellectual property and brand awareness (and audiences’ own undeniable preference for stories they’ve already heard), it’d be hard to come up with a funnier pitch than “Imagine this: Timothée Chalamet dances while dressed as a Victorian street urchin in front of a chorus line of extras. Meanwhile he’s warned off-screen that he must stand against the fearsome ‘chocolate cartel!’”

The apparent self-seriousness of that plot setup (at least in the trailer) begs incredulity. Wonka of course is not the first film to tread such waters. After all, much of the internet is seemingly waiting with bated breath for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie next week. Emma Stone and director Craig Gillespie also took a similarly ridiculous concept that invited skepticism at first but the result was the fairly subversive studio IP movie Cruella, the unlikely sympathetic origin story for a character who was created as a would-be skinner of puppies. Still, even that movie skated by with a self-aware tone which smirked at its own absurdity. Wonka, at least in its trailer, would seem to promise an achingly sincere and sentimental origin story about how Willy Wonka decided to open a chocolate factory.

Is that something you ever wanted to know? And did you ever need to see Hugh Grant in orange face? The fact it’s directed by Paddington‘s Paul King gives me enough goodwill to say “maybe?” But I suppose we’ll find out when Wonka opens on Dec. 15.

The post Wonka Trailer Recalls a Joke From Tropic Thunder and Not in a Good Way appeared first on Den of Geek.

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