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Wonka 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

Back before golden tickets and nut-sorting squirrels, Willy Wonka was merely an aspiring chocolatier. He humbly hoped to bring smiles to those around him with his elaborate recipes. So young Wonka traveled the world, spending seven years finding the best ingredients and perfecting his craft. And now, he’s come to the greatest chocolate-making city in the world to show off his eccentric inventions.

But starting a business costs money. And Wonka’s pockets are full of cocoa beans rather than sovereign coins. He doesn’t even have enough money to rent a hotel room to escape a cold winter night!

Fortunately, Wonka finds refuge at Mrs. Scrubbit’s laundry shop. She’s more than willing to let him stay the night and pay a single sovereign the next day. After all, that’s when Wonka plans to make his fortune. The only thing for Wonka to do is sign a contract promising to pay her back and prepare for his big day.

That preparation pays off. The public is blown away by Wonka’s creations—so blown away, in fact, that the young chocolatier’s dramatic debut causes some worry for the city’s three other chocolatiers: Fickelgruber, Slugworth and Prodnose. The corrupt men have colluded to corner the market on chocolate, and they’re concerned that Wonka’s passionate creations will destroy their collective conglomerate. So they call the police on Wonka, accusing him of causing a public disturbance; the officers confiscate all of Wonka’s earnings for their trouble, leaving him just as broke as when his day began.

Things only get worse from there. Because when Wonka returns to Mrs. Scrubbit, she tells him that even though the room was only a single sovereign, all the other comforts he enjoyed—like, say, the stairs to his room, for example—brought his total bill up to 10,000 sovereign. If Wonka could read, he would’ve read about such charges in the fine print of his contract. But now, he’s stuck working for Mrs. Scrubbit to pay off his debt at one coin per day, which will put his chocolate dreams on hold for roughly 27 years.

But the wonky Wonka isn’t deterred by the setback. Not at all. He’ll sneak out of his prison and continue to sell his chocolate to the masses. Gradually, he’ll raise enough money to pay off his debt, and then he will open his shop.

Of course, there’s still the issue of Fickelgruber, Slugworth and Prodnose. Because when they see that Wonka’s back in action, they’ll do whatever it takes to put him out of it for good.

Even if that means sending him to sleep with the chocolate fishes.

Positive Elements

When Wonka lands in his laundry-covered prison, he finds others there who have met with the same fate. And almost instantly, Wonka learns that each of them came to the city hoping to make it big in their respective passions—just like Wonka himself. In time, though, those hopes inevitably faded. However, Wonka almost instantaneously commits to not only getting himself out of his own debt but his co-prisoners out of theirs, too.

A young woman named Noodle is one such person who is trapped there with Wonka. She’s an orphan who was raised by the cruel Mrs. Scrubbit before she was put to work to pay off the debt she accrued along the way. Nevertheless, though she doubts she’ll ever escape her debt, she commits to help Wonka when she recognizes the chocolatier’s talent. Additionally, she teaches him how to read, and Wonka commits to helping the orphan discover the name of her biological parents, too.

Wonka eventually relates the origin of his passion for chocolate. He says it’s due to the close relationship he had with his mother, who would save up cocoa beans from her job in order to make him a chocolate bar on his birthday. And when Wonka told her that he wanted to become the best chocolatier in the world, she encouraged him to follow that dream.

Though he has little money, Wonka still gives some of it away to help a mother and child purchase a room for the night. And when police officers confiscate Wonka’s money due those trumped-up charges of making a public disturbance, one officer gives Wonka a bit of the money back when he learns that Wonka won’t have a place to stay if they take all of it.

When Wonka learns of how his actions have affected an Oompa-Loompa, he resolves to rectify the situation.

Spiritual Elements

The chocolate conglomerate hides its large vault of chocolate under St. Benedict’s Cathedral. The operation is run, we hear, by a “corrupt cleric and 500 chocoholic monks.” The cleric, Father Julius, uses a cross-shaped lever in his confessional to send the confessor down to the vault. When one police officer bribes Father Julius with a piece of chocolate, he says, in what is likely a reference to hell within his request to be sent to the vault, “send me down.”

Father Julius understands that his faith is a facade. The church is scheduled to host a funeral, and Father Julius warns the 500 monks that the wife attending is actually pious, so they need to act the part. He also tells the monks that they will one day be judged for their sins, “but it’s not going to be today—amen!

However, when chaos erupts, Father Julius exclaims that judgment has come for them, lamenting that he “sold [his] soul for 30 pieces of chocolate.” And at the climax of the chaos, he yells that he’s a sinner, “a weak and wicked chocoholic.”

Someone prays, addressing the members of the Trinity in Latin. Someone exclaims, “What the devil!?” A nun is seen with a crucifix.

Additionally, some of Wonka’s ingredients could be argued to be magical, such as “liquid sunlight” or “condensed thunderclouds,” though the film plays off such ingredients as being natural within Wonka’s fantastical world.

[Spoiler Warning] Wonka’s mother passed away due to an illness. We learn early on he secretly hopes that, somehow, he’ll see her again when he opens his shop, as she promised him that she’d be there to support him on that day. And when we reach the conclusion of the film, we see the chocolatier catch a brief glimpse of his mother smiling at him in a big crowd before vanishing.

Sexual Content

A man is given some advice on how to entice a woman he has feelings for, explaining that she’ll be “thankful for ankle, pleased for knees, and if you want to make her sigh, show her some thighs.” Later, we see the man wearing lederhosen that goes about halfway down his thighs. He bends over in them to accentuate his rear for the woman. Later, the same man is seen wearing silky, feminine pajamas to complement those worn by his new girlfriend.

As part of a dance number, someone slaps their rear. A man and a woman kiss. We hear a reference to using money to buy lingerie.

Violent Content

The chocolatiers make a couple of attempts on Wonka’s life. They detonate a boat that he’s sailing on, and they try to drown him in their chocolate vault. Likewise, they hold him at gunpoint, and a bullet is fired into the ceiling.

Elsewhere, we’re told that some chocolates have been poisoned—though in the “we didn’t mean to make you grow blue hair” way rather than any sort of life-threatening issue. A building burns down. Noodle is often locked in a bird coop as a punishment. A woman kicks her once, too.

Finally, as you’d expect, lots of comedic pratfalls are played for laughs. Someone gets knocked unconscious with a jar. Wonka is hit in the face with a frying pan. He is also threatened by the corrupt chief of police, who holds Wonka’s head under the cold water of a fountain and hits him with his baton.

And when the chief diverts all the city’s police officers to chase down Wonka, another officer asks, “Shouldn’t we be focusing on all those unsolved murders?”

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is misused once. We hear one use of “d–n.” There’s also one use of “jeez.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

A chief of police is successfully tempted into accepting a chocolate bribe because he’s addicted to it. His character grows fatter and fatter throughout the film; in fact, he talks about chocolate like someone might talk about a drug, saying he needs more to get the “same hit” he got earlier. In Willy Wonka’s world, it seems people can get heavily addicted to chocolate (to which those 500 “chocoholic” monks lend additional credence).

Wonka technically drugs a couple people with his chocolate as well. For example, he gives a man a chocolate that simulates a full course of various alcohols (the effects of which, we should note, the man is completely unaware). It culminates with the man eventually falling unconscious after calling an ex-girlfriend in his drunken stupor.

And speaking of alcohol, we see an Oompa Loompa fixing himself a cocktail. We hear a couple other comments about alcohol, too.

Other Negative Elements

People trick Wonka with fine print in a contract. A rich man vomits in his mouth whenever someone describes poor people. As an Oompa Loompa bends over, a scene transition makes it look like he’s passed gas. We’re shown a chocolate that causes people to float because of a fantastical bug inside of it, and Wonka notes that the bug will eventually fly out of the consumer’s rear.


I wasn’t really asking for a Willy Wonka origin story. I don’t recall many other people doing so, either. In fact, I doubt the eccentric chocolatier’s backstory was very high on anyone’s list of hopeful releases.

With that in mind, you can be sure that I went into my Wonka viewing with complete indifference. And by the time I left, I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised, both by the plot and by a number of jokes that actually made me laugh out loud. I found myself enjoying Wonka more than I thought I would.

Of course, watching Wonka is a bit like sinking your teeth into a chocolate chip cookie only to find out that it’s actually full of raisins—they might not ruin the experience, but they dampen the experience somewhat. That’s because while Wonka remains generally pretty tame, there are a few bites that parents will need to consider, such as its satirical depiction of a corrupt Catholic church and a couple of its cruder jokes.

But I’m not sure if Wonka is really any worse, overall, than previous entries within the Willy Wonka cinematic universe. Recall, for instance, the genuine mortal peril that Charlie and his fellow child contestants were in, both in the Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp cinematic versions.

So, no, Wonka isn’t as pure as his chocolate is; it isn’t melt-in-your-mouth perfect. But it’s still a relatively sweet treat.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”