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'Wonka' Hits the Wayback Machine With Roald Dahl's Chocolatier

| December 15, 2023 | By

Children's-book author Roald Dahl’s beloved character Willy Wonka hits the big screen (again) in “a world of pure imagination” on Dec. 15. However, Wonka is no remake, but a prequel to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story.

But is it worth taking your family to?

The Character of Willy Wonka

Before Timothée Chalamet’s portrayal of Willy Wonka, an eccentric chocolatier, in 2023’s Wonka, there was Gene Wilder’s performance in 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Johnny Depp’s, in the 2005 Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Of course, the character of Willy Wonka originates from the 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about Charlie Bucket, a British child whose family lives in poverty. He wins a chance to visit Wonka’s candy factory by getting a golden ticket in his chocolate bar. There is also a sequel called, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

But are the films appropriate for families with children? And how does the entertainment value compare? And do they emulate the books?

1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

For starters, the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was made while Roald Dahl was still alive. However, while he had been involved at first and even was happy with some changes, Dahl was “infuriated” by it. But who is to say he would have liked the others any better?


Besides a few scary elements, such as the tunnel scene and perhaps Gene Wilder’s angry rant, I would say this specific adaptation is the most family-friendly of all the versions. It's incredibly entraining to boot and has some very funny songs.

2005’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Now, the 2005 Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is a Tim Burton film, so, of course, it is going to be a little weird (mostly in a good way). Some would argue this is a more faithful adaption, despite Burton’s creative liberties such as Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) being much less into cowboy films, and the added backstory to Willy Wonka’s character.


Despite loving this version, myself, I do think it is less family-friendly than the former adaptation due to the humor. Yet, I would say it is less scary than the 1971 version.

2023’s Wonka

Wonka made me laugh out loud. It replicates the humor of many Roald Dahl stories well. In ways, the villains of the film reminded me of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean from Fantastic Mr. Fox, a 2009 adaptation of another Dahl story. It does very well with having a quirky supporting cast, too.


Going into it, I was a little unsure about Timothée Chalamet’s performance, since I have only seen Chalamet’s slightly more serious roles, but he was fun to watch. Though, he was much sweeter as Wonka than the previous two actors.

I would say this was the least family-friendly version, humor-wise. There’s a slightly risqué joke that’s not very subtle.

Also, if you’re religious, you may be a little on the fence about the corrupt priest (Rowan Atkinson) and monks in the film. However, it is acknowledged that they aren’t following their faith very well.

I won’t lie, I thought Atkinson was hysterical. There is talk of murder, but even that’s done humorously.

Should You Watch the Films?

Overall, all three films are quirky with a lot of heart and are pretty family-friendly. If you watch any of them, get prepared for musical fun and a craving for chocolate when they are over.

Maggie Orsinger graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2020 with a degree in Communications Media. She also holds an 2023 MFA from Pepperdine University for Screenwriting.

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