Blood and Chocolate Review
By Shawn McKenzie 01/28/2007
Vivian Gandillon (Helga Racz) is a nine-year-old girl who lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her father (Mihai Calin), mother (Lia Bugnar), brother (David Finti), and sister (Sofia Vladu.) Vivian happens to be a loup garoux, a.k.a. a werewolf, but they are the type that can change at will and not based on the cycle of the moon. One day, Vivian accidentally led some werewolf hunters to her family, wherein they slaughtered them all. Now orphaned, Vivian went to live in the only city where apparently werewolves are plentiful…Bucharest, Romania. Ten years later, a 19-year-old Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) lives with her Aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann) and works in a chocolate shop. In her free time, she likes to go running throughout the city, in which she occasionally leaps up the side of buildings. She hangs out in a nightclub that specializes in serving absinthe, and she has to put up with the nonsense of her cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick.) Rafe is Astrid’s son and is the leader of a group of werewolf delinquents named The Five, consisting of himself, Ulf (Chris Geere), Gregor (Tom Harper), Finn (John Kerr), and Willem (Jack Wilson.) His dad is Gabriel (Oliver Martinez), the leader of the werewolves and Astrid’s ex-husband. Gabriel has two rules: the werewolves must hunt in a pack or not at all, and he must marry every seven years. Even though he already has a redheaded girlfriend named Beatrice (Kata Dobó), Vivian has been prophesied to be his next wife, so…she would be marrying her uncle? (Whatever.) One night, while on a night jog, Vivian stumbles by an abandoned church, where she meets an American named Aiden Galvin (Hugh Dancy.) He is in Bucharest to do research for his latest graphic novel (a.k.a. comic book) about werewolves. Not knowing that she is a werewolf herself, they start dating (after she repeatedly tries to rebuff his advances in order to protect him.) When Gabriel gets word of their relationship, he sends Rafe to “persuade” Aiden to hit the bricks. Being that the badly behaved Rafe has already killed a female piece of “meat” (their word for a regular human) without Gabriel’s permission, his persuasion tactics would most likely be violent. If Vivian and Aiden can resolve the fact that they are two separate species of humans and survive the attacks of Vivian’s fellow werewolves…then maybe these two crazy kids can find bliss in their human/werewolf love.
When you think of werewolf movies, you think of hideous transformations from human to wolf…right? Now…imagine watching a werewolf movie in which a human turns into a cute doggie with just a flash of pretty light. Terrifying…huh? That’s essentially what happens in this not-so-bloody movie Blood and Chocolate.
It is basically a chick flick with a werewolf theme. That isn’t so bad, because the story was interesting…but with bad acting and cheesy special effects, it negates the story’s entertainment value.
Let’s start with the acting. Except for the two leads (Bruckner and Dancy), all of the acting was poor. Martinez is a French actor who was decent in 2002’s Unfaithful, but his attempt to be a leader of werewolves with horrible Romanian accents was just stupid. With his floppy hair and baby face, Dick wouldn’t strike fear in a five-year-old. Riemann overacted so badly that it was just sad.
As I mentioned above, the transformation scenes were just cheap looking. I’ve seen direct-to-video werewolf movies with better effects. They can’t all be classics, like 1981’s The Howling or An American Werewolf in London, but the movie wasn’t even as impressive as the werewolf-movie-within-a-music-video scene in Michael Jackson’s 1983 long-form video “Thriller” (of course, that video was directed by London’s director John Landis, so that might be the reason why it was so good.) Being that it was rated PG-13, we didn’t get to see any naughty bits, but I think that it was a little ridiculous that the werewolves just took off their coats and nothing else when they transformed. When they changed back into humans, they were naked (in the fetal position of course, because we can’t see more skin than in an average episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”) Where did the clothes go though? Even the Hulk tattered his clothes when he transformed.
I had a couple of other minor gripes that made the movie seem absurd. How did a comic book geek (Aiden) learn how to fight so effectively with just a silver butter knife? Yes…I said butter knife. I wonder what damage he could have done with a fork! Also…all of the cute doggies (it’s hard for me to consider them wolves because they’re just so darn adorable) looked alike, but for some reason, they had to make Vivian a white-haired doggie. What was the point? Did they want to distinguish her from the other doggies by gender? If that’s the case, then why wasn’t the Beatrice doggie red-haired?
German-born director Katja von Garnier was the one who helmed Blood and Chocolate. This is her third English-language movie, behind 1997’s Bandits (which I’ve never seen) and the 2004’s HBO TV movie “Iron-Jawed Angels” (which I really liked.) She was using Ehren Kruger and Christopher Landon’s (son of 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf star Michael Landon) screenplay, based on the young adult novel of the same name by Annette Curtis Klause. Kruger and Landon changed the setting from America to Romania, and Vivian increased in age from 16 to 19, which made the story go from interesting to hum-drum. According to an interview I read with Klause, she had no input on the production of the movie. Her opinion is that it would have been a more interesting story to place it in an American high school (like in her book) with teens facing odd growing pains rather than in a foreign country apparently populated with 20-something fashion models. The only reason that I’m giving it a higher rating than normal is that this is one of the first movies I’ve seen in a while that could qualify as a “date movie” based on its chick flick appeal. Gals…don’t worry about this movie being too scary, because it doesn’t have enough teeth to scare anyone.
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