For fans of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl, Christmas just came a little earlier than usual. A film version of the Dahl short story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar just popped up on Netflix almost two weeks ahead of schedule. The movie, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular hero, was originally slated to drop on October 12 but for unknown reasons, Netflix decided to make it available now.
Wes Anderson’s short film The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is streaming on Netflix two weeks early.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a short film directed by the reigning King of twee cinema, Wes Anderson. Anderson wrote the screenplay himself based on Roald Dahl’s original story. The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar, a wealthy man who uses his inheritance to fund his gambling habit.
One day, Henry finds a book written by Dr. Chatterjee (Dev Patel) that details the account of a man named Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley), who can see through objects with his eyes closed. Wishing to learn this power for himself, Sugar steals the book and embarks on a quest to gain the power to cheat at blackjack.
[Bill] Murray was conspicuously absent from this year’s Asteroid City after getting COVID-19 prior to the start of production. There’s been no word on why the actor is absent from Henry Sugar.
The movie also stars Ralph Fiennes as Roald Dahl and the IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade as the Great Yogi. The move to adapt The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar as a short film came shortly after Netflix purchased the Roald Dahl Story Company for $686 million in 2021.
Early the following year, Netflix reported that Wes Anderson would be writing and directing the first short story adaptation, with Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the crew signing on soon after.
Sadly, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar marks Anderson’s second project in a row not to include previous mainstay Bill Murray. The two worked together on nine films in a row, including 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the only one of the nine projects to feature Murray in a starring role.
Murray was conspicuously absent from this year’s Asteroid City after getting COVID-19 prior to the start of production. There’s been no word on why the actor is absent from Henry Sugar.
Although The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar was originally reported to be a feature-length film, director Wes Anderson clarified earlier this year that it would be one of a collection of short films the director would make for Netflix based on Dahl’s work.
Anderson premiered the 39-minute-long film on September 1 at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, out-of-competition. Netflix followed that up with a limited theatrical release in New York and California before releasing Sugar onto its streaming platform.
The movie has already garnered a lot of critical praise, sitting at an impressive 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with a critical consensus that reads, “With The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Wes Anderson returns to the world of Roald Dahl—and proves his distinctive style is a comfortable fit for one of the author’s sweetest stories.”
Meanwhile, the audience score for the film is slightly lower, 85 percent, with many of the viewers who didn’t like it complaining that the film felt “pretentious” and two-dimensional—a common complaint about Anderson’s films.
When the director is at his best, he presents a quirky, sometimes sweet, fairy-tale version of the world that echoes humanity’s best and worst traits through heightened characters and purposely stagey dialogue. When Anderson doesn’t hit the mark, his movies come off as nothing more than beautiful dioramas—all style and no substance.
That isn’t to say that Wes Anderson isn’t a brilliant filmmaker, but if ever there was a mainstream director whose work was not for everyone, it’s Anderson. He’s the very embodiment of “some people get it, some people don’t,” or to put it in more Gen Z terms, when it comes to Anderson’s work, IFYKYK.
Wes Anderson And Roald Dahl
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar isn’t Anderson’s first collaboration with the late Roald Dahl. The filmmaker directed a stop-motion adaptation of the beloved children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. Fox was Anderson’s first animated work as well as his first adaptation. The movie was considered successful enough that Wes made a second stop-motion animated feature, 2018’s Isle of Dogs.
Unsurprisingly, Anderson’s and Dahl’s styles gel together well. Both creators have a certain style that often feels like it overwhelms any sentimentality buried in the prose. However, Anderson and Dahl always conceal a secret heart in their work, which often beats loud enough to break the surface.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is no exception. You can stream the newest Wes Anderson flick right now on Netflix.