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The Chocolate War

4.0 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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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.

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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

Special Features

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

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, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000MTFDDS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,648 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Chocolate War" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As a huge fan of Robert Cormier, I thought I would give this movie a try. Although most of the movie follows the plot of the book fairly well, I found myself having to pause the movie at several intervals to explain things to my husband that were not made clear by the movie alone.

All of the wonderful intricacies of thought going on in each of the characters minds were missing. And the movie is interspersed with very surreal dream sequences that don't make much sense. The Final straw was when they change the ending completely to something that Robert Cormier would never have approved of. Quite disappointed!
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Format: DVD
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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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 film...like the book...is 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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Format: DVD
I first read THE CHOCOLATE WAR during my senior year in high school. It became one of my favorite novels. It is one of the creepiest books I had read and I could understand why it was banned in some high schools, even to this day. When the film came out in November, 1988 I went to see it with full eagerness. I only knew Keith Gordon as an actor, but he was a surprisingly good one. I wanted to see what he would do with a film version of the movie. I had not seen a single clip from the movie or a trailer for it, so I knew virtually nothing about it. When it was over, I thought it was really good except for the ending. (SPOILER WARNING). Keith Gordon changed the ending from the original book and I thought it was trying to tack on an upbeat ending to a disturbing story.

In the 1990's I purchased the film on Laserdisc. Included was a printed interview with Gordon, and he explained exactly why the ending was changed. This DVD version includes a recent interview with him, and he goes into more detail about why he did that. If you only remember him as an actor from the films such as CHRISTINE, BACK TO SCHOOL, and DRESSED TO KILL you will not recognize him today. Or, maybe you will. His explanation for why the ending was changed for the movie makes an incredible amount of sense. And when I viewed the film on Laserdisc I had changed my mind about that ending.

The story takes place in a Catholic prep school named Trinity. We never know what town it's located in, although I suspect it's somewhere in New England. The school is kept under control by a not-so-secret society called The Vigils. Three students run the group: Archie (Wally Ward), a President named Carter (Adam Baldwin), and a secretary named Obie (Doug Hutchinson).
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