Based on a popular teen novel by Annette Curtis Klause, "Blood and Chocolate" revises classic werewolf legend and effectively neuters it in the process. Gone are the metaphorical young bodies changing during puberty, along with the openly sexual edge that got Klause's book banned by some libraries.

Based on a popular teen novel by Annette Curtis Klause, “Blood and Chocolate” revises classic werewolf legend and effectively neuters it in the process. Gone are the metaphorical young bodies changing during puberty (never better than in cult fave “Ginger Snaps”), along with the openly sexual edge that got Klause’s book banned by some libraries. These are replaced by a silly “Underworld”-style feud between humans and loups-garoux (that’s fancy French-speak for “werewolves”). Developed by the same pack of producers as “Underworld: Evolution,” this comparatively tame entry opens in the same late-January spot that served “Underworld” so well last year.

Chocolate, a potentially fatal poison for dogs, represents a distinctly human pleasure for “wolf girl” Vivian (Agnes Bruckner). Although torn between human and werewolf worlds, Vivian wants to resist her bloodthirsty nature so she can love handsome Aiden (Hugh Dancy). But her fellow werewolves see man as a menace and aim to scare away the unwelcome outsider.

A graphic novelist well-versed in loup-garoux legend, Aiden provides essential background on how these supernatural creatures differ from traditional werewolves: Their bites aren’t contagious, they switch form at will, and, most significantly, they actually become wolves, rather than the traditional man-wolf hybrid.

Latter change is awfully convenient for the filmmakers. Instead of commissioning visual effects and makeup artists to develop innovative new monster designs, they merely hand off all the creature scenes to wolf wranglers. The transformations occur in unimpressive flashes of white light.

Considering pic’s other superficially cool touches — gothing things up by shifting the story to modern-day Bucharest where the pack spends evenings sipping absinthe in stylish (but unlikely) underground clubs — the substitution of actual wolves for man-wolf creatures designed with special costumes and make-up proves a curious disappointment. So does the lopsided balance between killing and kissing.

Director Katja von Garnier brings a decidedly feminine touch to the project, identifying heavily with Vivian’s anxieties. Vivian is supposed to have an arranged marriage with the werewolf pack leader Gregoire (a heavily accented Olivier Martinez) instead of choosing her own mate.

Here, the movie differs from the novel. Book presents a resolution in which Vivian marries within the wolf group, deciding that her kind cannot mix with man after all. Pic prefers a Hollywood ending, in which Vivian and Aiden fight side-by-side to defend their cross-species love.

The entire star-crossed scenario is conveyed with the narrative simplicity of a musicvideo, lingering in an almost fetishistic manner on sensual details (boxes of chocolates, a blood-red ribbon) while compressing important elements of the story (a flashback to her parents’ murder, the blissful series of dates during which Vivian and Aiden fall in love) into clumsy montages.

Lensing and music choices are strictly vanilla.

Blood and Chocolate

U.K.-Germany-Romania-U.S.

Production

An MGM release of an MGM and Lakeshore Entertainment presentation of a Berrick Filmproducktion production in association with Lakeshore Entertainment. Produced by Hawk Koch, Richard Wright, Wolfgang Esenwein, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi. Executive producers, Robert Bernacchi, Ehren Kruger. Co-producers, Peter Rogers, Gudrun Anja Stadelmann, Andrei Boncea. Directed by Katja von Garnier. Screenplay, Ehren Kruger, Christopher Landon, based on the novel by Annette Curtis Klause.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen), Brendan Galvin; editors, Martin Walsh, Emma Hickcox; music, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil; production designer, Kevin Phipps; supervising art director, Adam O'Neill; set decorator, Peter Walpole; costume supervisor, Marco Scotti; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Mervyn Moore; supervising sound editor, Nick Adams; visual effects supervisor, Rob Duncan; associate producers, Lesley Dyer, Sarah J. Platt; assistant director, Charles Rotherman. Reviewed at Century City 15, Los Angeles, Jan. 25, 2007. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Vivian - Agnes Bruckner Gabriel - Olivier Martinez Aiden - Hugh Dancy Rafe - Bryan Dick Astrid - Katja Riemann

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