Blood and Chocolate (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

How do you get a werewolf movie to earn a PG-13 rating? Turn it into a Harlequin romance. Actually, Blood and Chocolate still shows signs of neutering but what has been toned down to get the teen-friendly classification is the sex and nudity not the gore. One has to give the filmmakers credit for carving out a new niche in werewolf lore (this sort of story is typically reserved for vampires - werewolves aren't generally viewed as sexy). Director Katja von Garnier approaches a human/lycanthrope coupling as a Romeo & Juliet affair, only with a little more fur involved.

Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) is a vivacious young woman with more than one secret. In addition to harboring tortured memories about her childhood, she has an affinity for wolves because she turns into one upon occasion. She's of marriageable age and is being scouted as a prospective bride by the leader of the pack, Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), who switches wives every seven years because he's a horny bastard who likes them young. Vivian isn't happy about the prospect of seven years' bliss as the #1 she-wolf and makes her feelings known. Her reticence is scorned by Gabriel's son, the cruel Rafe (Bryan Dick), who looks forward to the day he can take over for Gabriel and implement his own rules. Meanwhile, Vivian commits the cardinal sin of falling in love with a human, graphic novelist Aiden (Hugh Dancy), who has his own secrets. Their relationship leads to a chain of circumstances that puts both Vivian and Aiden in mortal danger.

The actors for Blood and Chocolate were not chosen on the basis of their thespian talents. Agnes Bruckner, a veteran of television and low-profile motion pictures, is a gorgeous woman, but her performance lacks shading and subtlety. Hugh Dancy appears content to spend the entire movie looking serious and brooding until he goes into full Rambo Van Helsing mode near the end. Everyone else is awful - sometimes comically so. Olivier Martinez and Bryan Dick are particularly worth singling out. Apparently, upon discovering they were going to be in a werewolf movie, they decided to take the phrase "chewing on the scenery" to heart. Their portrayal gets stronger once they are in wolf form.

There is the kernel of an interesting idea at the core of Blood and Chocolate. It has nothing to do with the concept that werewolves are alive and living among us as part of secret society or that the "real" rules of how to stop them aren't what movies have taught us. Instead, Blood and Chocolate uses the idea of the forbidden romance as its template. We have seen this story before with love affairs between people of different classes or races. Science fiction has ventured into this territory with inter-species interaction. Here, von Garnier offers another variation on an age-old theme. The problem is, she is saddled with an overripe screenplay where half the dialogue is so bad even an A-list actor would have trouble reciting lines with a straight face, and there are no A-listers to be found here.

The special effects are adequate, although not special. When men (or women) change into their four-footed alter-egos, they don't undergo the grotesque morphing we have become familiar with over the years. Instead, they blur from man to beast - an easy way to save money and keep the romantic aspect intact, although less sinister and unsettling. Also, the removal of the full moon as a catalyst dilutes the tension. When asked why she takes on her beast form from time-to-time, Vivian explains it's because she wants to run, thereby making her sound unintentionally like Forrest Gump. Cue Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty." (Actually, anything would have been better than the cheap, woeful songs that play on the movie's soundtrack.)

The film's director, German Katja von Garnier, made the wonderful 1993 comedy Making Up (which starred a younger Katja Riemann, who appears in Blood and Chocolate as Rafe's mother). Because of its brevity (only 55 minutes long), Making Up never made it past the film festival circuit, but its charm augured good things for its creator. Sadly, von Garnier's career has not blossomed and it now appears to have hit bottom. Blood and Chocolate has no audience. Horror fans will be disgusted by the lack of gore. Romance fans will be disgusted by the presence of gore. One is tempted to applaud the filmmakers for trying something this daring, but the result isn't good enough to warrant any acclaim, however lukewarm it might be. Blood and Chocolate is appealing as its congealed title makes it sound.

Blood and Chocolate (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2007-01-26
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1