A dime-store romance overloaded with enough sappy music to make even Mantovani cringe, “Vanilla and Chocolate” is strictly for Harlequin readers who enjoy watching beautiful people in beautiful locales and don’t mind a low-cal content. Italo pic reps flamenco star Joaquin Cortes’ feature debut, but the jury’s still out on whether he can parlay his dancing stardom to similar big-screen heights. Film opened OK in mid-February thanks to the original novel’s fans but mediocre reviews haven’t helped since.
Maria Grazia Cucinotta plays Penelope, married to high school sweetheart Andrea (Alessandro Preziosi) and mother of three kids. Sick of hubby’s infidelities and hands-off child rearing, she flees to the emotional security of her late granny’s villa for some time alone. Andrea gets his act together and begs to be taken back, but meanwhile, Penelope has contacted Carlos (Cortes, smoldering), a fabulously wealthy artist with whom she once spent a few months of heated passion. Twenty years away from the director’s chair has not sharpened helmer Ciro Ippolito’s skills: All too often, the cliche-ridden plot is carried along by equally banal direction. Perfs are mostly adequate, but Cucinotta is wasted as Penelope.