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The Chocolate War
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that mature teenagers, especially fans of the popular book by Robert Cormier, will appreciate this dark story, a kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers. Archie says that "people are two things, greedy and cruel," and devises his plans to take advantage of those qualities.
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What's the story?
At Trinity Prep, Archie (Wally Ward) determines the "assignments" to be given to those boys selected for the elite club, the Vigils. Freshman Jerry Renault (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) is selected for an assignment. Intent on becoming headmaster, hardnosed teacher Brother Leon (John Glover) tells Archie that the boys must sell 20,000 boxes of chocolates for their annual fund-raiser, twice the number from previous years, and at twice the price. All of the boys agree, but Jerry refuses because that is his test to get into the Vigils. But even after passing the Vigils' test, he continues to refuse to participate, despite harassment by the other boys. Now, Archie must ensure they meet their sales quota or lose his position within the club.
Is it any good?
Mature teenagers, especially fans of the popular book by Robert Cormier, will appreciate this dark story, a kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers. While the story is exaggerated for satiric effect, much of it will seem true to teenagers, who often feel a heightened sense of proportion. The movie shows us some of Jerry's dreams or fantasies, which add to the surreal and claustrophobic feeling of the movie.
The movie provides a good basis for a discussion of the different ways that people get other people to do what they want, the exercise of power, and the ways that power is maintained -- and lost. The interaction between Brother Leon and Archie is especially interesting, because of their uneasy interdependence. As powerful as both of them seem, they ultimately lose their power without much of a struggle.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the tools that Archie uses to maintain and exercise power. What tools does Brother Leon use? How can anyone or any group decide to make something "popular" and "cool" as Archie does with the chocolate sale? Why does Archie tell Janza to "use the queer pitch" on Jerry? Why does the screenplay have Archie holding an impaled butterfly when he talks to Janza on the phone? Why does Jerry tell the girl she was right? What is the significance of the Vigil's marble test for the person who gives the assignments?
For kids who love dramas
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