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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Chocolat

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Rated: R
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: January 2001
Genres: Drama, Romance

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

CHOCOLAT, from director Lasse Hallström (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES), tells the story of the liberating powers of chocolate, at least the chocolate concoctions made by Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), the new chocolatier in a tiny, nosey French village. With its whimsical music and its bright colors set against a hazy background, the movie wants to be savored as a sweet fairytale for adults.

Working from Joanne Harris's novel, screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs creates a script that is little more than a sketch, a problem that he had in his last effort, Disney's poorly plotted DINOSAUR. Jacobs throws in a myriad of slightly quirky characters that give us some reasons to smile but rarely to laugh.

Alfred Molina is the town's puritanical mayor, who writes the priest's stern sermons and promises to run Vianne and her daughter, Anouk Rocher (Victoire Thivisol, PONETTE), out of town by Easter. The film starts at the beginning of Lent, when temptations of the flesh, like chocolates, are officially in disfavor in this highly religious town.

Lena Olin plays an abused wife, whose spine is stiffened by the power of the brown bean. Peter Stormare plays her drunken husband.

Some of the townsfolk find that a chocolate fix is better than Viagra, so they buy it in bulk. Even the dogs are aroused by its consumption. Our audience found the funniest scene to be that of two dogs, doing it well, doggie style. The fact that canine sex produces the movie's largest laugh is proof that the script needs some major surgery.

Johnny Depp, who usually infuses any role with an intriguing energy, plays his part of a river rat, an Irish Gypsy, with good looks and little more. He seemed to be posing for the movie's promotion stills and didn't realize that the director had called, "Action!"

After lots of chocolate eating and a few nice little moments, the movie throws in a couple of predictable tragedies to invoke some quick tears in the audience before it rolls the ending credits. The only thing you might remember about the film a day later is one of its chocolate confections. Eat a chocolate; skip the movie.

CHOCOLAT runs 2:01. Regardless of what the title and the setting might lead you to belief, the film is in English, not French. It is rated PG-13 for a scene of sensuality and some violence and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up. Most kids, however, are likely to be bored.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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