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The Chocolate War (1988)

John Glover , Ilan Mitchell-Smith , Keith Gordon  |  R |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Price: $7.75 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: John Glover, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Wallace Langham, Doug Hutchison, Corey Gunnestad
  • Directors: Keith Gordon
  • Writers: Keith Gordon, Robert Cormier
  • Producers: Jonathan D. Krane, Ron Diamond, Simon R. Lewis, Susan Sprivak, William J. Rouhana Jr.
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: April 17, 2007
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,089 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Chocolate War" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Feature commentary by director Keith Gordon
  • Interview with director Keith Gordon

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jerry did the one thing no one expected. He stood up for himself. The new boy at strict Catholic High School, Jerry Renault, is bullied into selling boxes of chocolates for the school's annual fund-raising event. The sadistic headmaster, Brother Leon, and 'The Vigils', a vicious gang of school thugs, make Jerry's life hell when he decides he won't be pushed around anymore.

After acting in literary adaptations like Christine, Keith Gordon returned to the well for his directorial debut. His smart and stylish adaptation of Robert Cormier's controversial youth novel marks him as a natural. Based in a frequently overcast Pacific Northwest, Jerry Renault (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Weird Science) enters a Catholic boys' school in the wake of his mother's passing. The freshman already has enough worries, but then Brother Leon (a ferocious John Glover) instructs each student to sell 50 boxes of chocolates during Trinity's annual fundraiser. Jerry refuses. Leon is taken aback, but then he finds that Jerry's refusal--his assignment--was handed down by Machiavellian upperclassman Archie (CSI's Wallace Langham, then known as Wally Ward), head of the Vigils. The secret society also instructs Jerry to recant, but he sticks to his guns. At first, a few kids congratulate him on his stand, but then Leon and Archie, threatened by the iconoclast, turn the school against him. The climactic showdown between Jerry and Archie deviates from the book, but retains its cynical spirit. As Gordon explains in his DVD interview, "They both threaten the system, and in the end, the system is a much bigger problem than any one individual." Like his mentor Brian DePalma, Gordon aims more for emotional than visual truth, which translates into dramatic lighting and fantasy sequences (which are, at first, more confusing than illuminating), but the performances remain grounded in reality. Interestingly, Mitchell-Smith, who never overplays his hand, abandoned acting in the 1990s--for teaching. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a Cult Classic August 26, 2006
With an excellent story line, great music by "Yaz" and superior photography, this movie should be a staple of anyone's collection. I was very glad to see that it is finally coming to DVD. I have never seen it on television or cable which is unfortunate because I think that its storyline has much universal appeal. The opposition of Jerry Renault to the dreaded secret society known as "the Vigils" would probably appeal to today's "DaVinci Code" crowd. The movie is full of symbols, intrigue and even a certain amount of violence. In my opinion, this movie has a little bit of everything for everyone and is one of the true "lost gems" of Hollywood.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtly stylish June 1, 2010
Rarely, if ever, does one see a movie about high school that has artistic merit. This one does! Lots of POV shots and sequences that illustrate a state of mind. Captures the stupidity, cruelty, and quiet despair of those awkward years. Not "Citizen Kane," or anything, but almost poetic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age in a strict catholic school April 8, 2008
By Reader
There are many coming of age movies but this one is definitely unique. Story is about all boys private school where many come from well off families and others are scholarship kids. No matter which social background they come from, they all try to blend in and feel accepted by their peers. It seems that most boys that crave popularity and accepatnace are members of the group called "Vigils". Their leader is cunning and handsome young man, yet mean. In a new year as freshman arrive, Vigils target most vulnerable one of the freshman for the membership where the acceptance is earned by rites of passage - surviving bulling by the other Vigils members. In order to get accepted in this fraternity type of (false) brothehood, our main character pledges not to sell any of the 50 boxes of chocolates intended for a school fundraiser for 10 days. When the pledge's 10 days elapse, everyone is stunned to learn that boxes continue not to sell by our young man who stubornly refuses to particiapte int he fundraiser sale. His seeming vulnerability (his mother died) is turning into rebellion that is admirable by other boys who realize that conformity is not always path to acceptance, respect and admiration. It is heartening to see how boys can be so hurtful to each other, but also wonderful to see that our hero does not waiver under pressure. He stands his grounds and becomes moral winner. They say that film was made from the book that was both controversional and banned. Now I really want to read that book! I have never heard about books banned in US - land of free speech.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Archie Costello is one of the cruelist characters in the so-called "literature for young adults" genre. He is an accurately rendered, charismatic sadist who is brought to the screen convincingly by Wally Ward in this nearly-faithful adaptation of Robert Comier's fascinating study in the "collusion in cruelty" of supposedly good people. Robert Comier cuts no slack in his story...the bad guys win and the consequences are even worse in the sequel, Beyond the Chocolate War. The film (with its avenging angel ending), however, is neither sacchrine, nor as tidy as some viewers contend. True, Archie...anti-hero, to the max...gets his. But Jerry Renault, the would-be hero of the film (who gets hell beat out of him in the novel) does not escaped unscathed by the "Something Wicked" that has come the way of Trinity High School in the carnival guise of a fund raising candy sale. The Chocolate War is that...Archie knows how to punch the buttons of cowardice and fear. The the unpleasant, but engaging because of the truths it posits about human nature. Ignore the bogus ending of the film and you'll be left with an ugly taste in your mouth which certainly isn't chocolate but might serve as the necessary medicine of reality. Recommended with caveats!!!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars this was (is) your life in high school. December 27, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I believe Keith Gordon of all people directed this film. You know, the kid from "Back to School", and "Christine."Based on young adult novel by Robert Cormier, who also wrote "I am the Cheese." <--Check out my review on that movie too.Anyway, Catholic student, Jerry Renualt stands up to authority, God I like him already, by refusing to sell chocolates for his school. This divides the school - now the Vigils, a secret society of schoolboys decide to make Renualt's life a living hell. John Glover as a Catholic school teacher is crazy, and funny in a sick way. There is also a messege here about crooked politics, and how sometimes it's just better off to "play the game". Beware! The ending of the film, is completely opposite than the ending of the book. Low-Budget, but still moving. Bet it brings back some high school memories.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie based on the Book. August 27, 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This movie follows the book very closely. The ending is just a bit different, but it's the same overall theme as in the book. the main character Jerry Renualt attends a Catholic school, Were he deals with an upscale gang called the vigils, who run the show. The movie is almost a satire but not quite, it keeps its realism and stays believeable. Often Novals of this sort do not make very good movies but this is an exception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Chocolate War May 8, 2014
Jerry Renault is a student of Trinity High School for boys. When the annual chocolate sale fundraiser begins, the powerful student group, the Vigils, give Jerry the assignment to refuse to sell any chocolates for the first several days. However, after the time is up on his assignment, he continues to refuse to sell the chocolates. Brother Leon is very concerned. He had spent too much and overbought. The chocolates have to be sold. Jerry starts to feel the pressure.

This movie is an accurate rendition of the book. The actors did a great job, and the movie was very convincing overall. The filming was creatively and effectively done. The sound track was good, too, and went well with the movie. Personally, I found the cruelty in the movie difficult to watch. Nevertheless, it is a realistic portrayal of how students, and sometimes the clergy, treat others.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great dvd
awesome movie, the movie and case is as described. the movie plays well and the it's an authentic blu ray.
Published 10 months ago by veritech_13
4.0 out of 5 stars Gang Violence Communism?
Standing up to violence , having the choice of no, we need to teach children that they should be able to think for themselves and not be bullied into yes. Read more
Published 13 months ago by charlotte
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent adaptation and an impressive directing debut
I first read THE CHOCOLATE WAR during my senior year in high school. It became one of my favorite novels. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bradford P. Ruhle
5.0 out of 5 stars great moive
I used this to accompany the book in my classroom. It has a different ending from the book, but this led to other discussion for the class.
Published 20 months ago by gayle klinker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great treatise on bullying
I loved this movie. It was rated R probably only for a couple of F words, other than that, I felt it was more like a PG-13 movie. Very good treatise on bullying. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Shon R. Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Do I dare disturb the universe?
Released in 1988, and directed by Keith Gordon, "The Chocolate War" is a very dark and depressing teen angst/coming-of-age film based on a novel of the same name by Robert Cormier. Read more
Published 21 months ago by The Seeker
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Satisfied
Thank you;
This product arrived far faster than expected. It was of top quality. The Teacher in my department for whom it was purchased was delighted to be able to use it for... Read more
Published on June 10, 2012 by eddy
4.0 out of 5 stars Great adaption!
The only bad thing is that the ending was not like the book at all. Other than that, the movie is great!
Published on April 13, 2012 by Yoav Dobrin
2.0 out of 5 stars movie doesn't match the book
I ordered this movie to show my high school students for after reading the novel. I was really disappointed that the movie has a completely different ending than the book. Read more
Published on December 26, 2010 by J. Gilbert
1.0 out of 5 stars Chocolate War The Movie
The movie is HORRIBLE! The book was a excellent but the movie just didn't cut it and not just because it didn't follow the plot of the book but just because it followed no plot at... Read more
Published on April 16, 2010 by N. Lane
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Topic From this Discussion
when on earth is this finally coming out?
April 17, 2007 seems to actually (finally!) be a firm date. It was tied up when ownership transfered from one company to another.
Feb 13, 2007 by K. Gordon |  See all 2 posts
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