Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Rated G for General Audiences
Recommended for ages 5 and up
Run Time: 100 minutes
Quick Take: Naughty kids learn to be nice after a tour with a wacky candy maker in this quirky must-see.
Wonka's World of Wonder Captures Kids & Parents
The most treasured children's films operate on a weird wavelength that doesn't always register with adults, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory works just this way.
A product of the psychedelic 1970s, the movie may look like a bad acid trip to parents, but it opens up a world of wonder for kids. As Wonka says, "We are the music-makers. We are the dreamers of dreams."
Wonka's factory is a florid funhouse, full of trick doors, underground rivers and mysterious Ooompa-Loompas. None of it makes much sense -- in factory production terms -- but that's the way kids often like things.
There is also a sense of danger operating around the edges -- and in Wilder's performance in particular -- that fascinates children. Their world, after all, is one of rules, and the movie envisions some fantastic repercussions for breaking them. As the snotty kids on Wonka's tour meet grim fates, little ones in the audience may be thinking, "There but for the grace of God goes me."
In short, Wonka makes a case for good behavior without ever seeming like a stuffy schoolmarm. He makes manners fun.
Kids Will Like:
The edible candy forest. Depending on their taste, they'll either go for the whipped-cream toadstools or the licorice flowers. The music is also a plus, even if kids won't quite know what to make of the orange-faced Oompa-Loompas who do most of the singing. It's sort of a love/confusion thing.
Parents Will Like:
Wilder's, well, wildness. You certainly wouldn't want to leave your child in Wilder's care, but watching his Willy Wonka put a brat like Veruca Salt in her place is awfully satisfying.
Though rated G and without any specific, objectionable elements, that sense of danger is something that can resonate deeply with younger viewers. Both of my daughters saw the movie at age 3 and neither of them made it past the point where gluttonous Augustus Gloop tumbles into the chocolate river. By the time she was 6, though, my oldest was ready for anything Willy Wonka had in store.
Yes. This trippy take on Dahl's tale is a rite of cinematic passage -- when your kids are at the right age.