When you boil the holidays we celebrate down to their essentials, the vast majority of them all reveal themselves to be about the same exact thing—candy. On Halloween we celebrate ghouls and candy, on Christmas it’s the Baby Jesus and Candy, on Easter it’s Undead Jesus and candy, and on Valentine’s Day it’s romance and candy. Basically, we take a break on Thanksgiving to eat pie, and that’s about the only exception. Sure, Halloween costumes, Christmas lights, and family togetherness all have their attractive qualities, but seeing as we’ve woven the consumption of candy into some level of each of these different holidays, maybe it’s about time we admit to ourselves that they were put together simply as transparent excuses for us to binge on sickly sweet confections in the first place.
Of course, for movie geeks, holidays take on an additional purpose than the ones they serve for most other people. For us they serve both as an excuse to eat candy, and as an excuse to have movie marathons. On Halloween we tear through gruesome slashers (and trick or treat candy), on Christmas we stuff ourselves with sappy nostalgia (and stocking candy), and it all feels pretty damned good. There’s a problem with the holiday we’ve got coming up though, Valentine’s Day, in that anyone wanting to keep their movie marathon thematically appropriate is going to have to spend the day watching a bunch of rom-coms, and—let’s be honest—there are only so many of those that are good enough to keep re-watching year after year.
So, this year, instead of watching our hundredth mad dash to the airport to stop someone from getting on a plane, let’s cuddle up next to somebody special (or not), break open a box of chocolates (this is mandatory), and skip all the romance by focusing on the thing we truly appreciate about Valentine’s Day—candy.
Of course, if someone brings up the idea of doing a marathon of movies about candy, the first thing that’s going to pop into everyone’s head is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and all of the Gene Wilder nightmares it gave us when we watched it as kids, so instead of wasting our time with that one, let’s just say that we’re putting this list together in honor of that candy-obsessed classic.
And seeing as Valentine’s Day can mean very different things to different people depending on whether they’re in a relationship or not, let’s split these six candy-themed movies into two lists—a milk chocolate list for people who aren’t completely opposed to thinking nice thoughts about their fellow human beings, and a dark chocolate list for everyone who’s looking to burn this insipid holiday to the ground. Though heck, if you’re feeling completely nutty, maybe you can get through both of them, with a Willy Wonka cherry placed on top. That’d be basically an entire day where you’d successfully avoid going outside.
Milk Chocolate List:
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
While Disney Animation’s 2012 surprise Wreck-It-Ralph is best known for being a movie about video games, viewing it doesn’t tend to leave one aching with the desire to drag out their dusty old video game systems to play through a round of Q*bert. Instead, its the urge to stock up on sugar that the film most urgently inspires, and that’s because, after an initial period where the story’s anti-hero protagonist, Ralph (John C. Reilly), jumps around from video game to video game in order go on a quest to prove that he’s more than just a villain, the bulk of the action settles on a fictional racing game called Sugar Rush, and the world the Disney animators have created for Sugar Rush is made up of so many different candy landscapes that there’s no way you’ll be able to take them all in without getting a craving for something sweet.
Wreck-It Ralph makes a good opener for a movie marathon because it’s light and fun and easy to digest. It represented a real return to form for Disney’s feature animations when it came out, after a period where straight to video sequels and forgettable original features started to put a tarnish on a company that had a couple of different silver ages. And, going along with that, the movie itself teaches the lesson that if you just keep plugging away and trying your hardest, even the clumsiest and stupidest among us will find something that we can be good at eventually, which will hopefully earn us the acceptance of those we’re forced to share the world with. Acceptance of others—that’s not a bad virtue to try to cultivate on Valentine’s Day at all.
Due to pretty much all of its promotional images including a picture of Juliette Binoche sensually feeding a piece of chocolate to Johnny Depp, a lot of people seem to have gotten the wrong impression about Lasse Hallström’s 2000 film Chocolat. Sure, it involves a couple of scenes where people engage in the sensual experience of eating chocolate (most of the action of the film takes place in a chocolate shop, after all), and sure there are a couple of scenes where romance is had with Johnny Depp, but that’s not really what the movie is about at all. In fact, Depp only shows up relatively briefly.
Instead, Chocolat is much more a movie about a mother and her daughter, about women coming together and creating a space where they can feel accepted, and about the importance of marching to the beat of your own drummer in the face of a society that often wants to control everyone’s actions and put them in boxes. Really, there’s so much rebelling against authority and acceptance of weirdos going on here, Chocolat would make for a great double feature with Wreck-It Ralph even if they didn’t both heavily feature candy imagery that’s near pornographic. If there’s any main reason to watch this movie, it’s Binoche though. Not only is she really good here as the film’s one true lead, there’s also something about her glistening with sweat and stirring creamy, liquid chocolate over a flame that just speaks to the primal part of the brain.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Director Ken Hughes’ big screen adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car” is about a lot of things. It’s about the joys of skipping school, growing up with erratic father figures, kidnapping, a flying car—but it’s also a story that heavily features man’s eternal lust for candy. Not only does some of the early action take place in a candy factory, and not only does Dick Van Dyke’s eccentric protagonist invent a hard candy that also serves as a whistle (which he terrorizes the French-speaking world by calling a Toot Sweet), but it also includes an infamous scene where a character known as the Child Catcher uses the promise of candies and sweets in order to lure children into his wagon-cage of doom. The Child Catcher is maybe the most disturbing character ever captured on film, and is sure to give any youngsters you show this one to night terrors for years.
If you can get past the guaranteed trauma, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is otherwise a grand and enveloping film full of sumptuous production design and catchy music numbers, and is a great choice for the grand finale of a series of candy movies. The whole thing runs on the power of Van Dyke’s inherent charisma, which is a strong enough drug that it can’t help but make you feel giddy once you’re exposed. Who didn’t watch this thing when they were little and come away from it wishing that he was their dad? This year, instead of getting hung up on relationship stuff, it might be prudent if we all just regressed to childhood and celebrated the joys of teeth-rotting treats for a day.
Dark Chocolate List:
Consuming Passions (1988)
Giles Foster’s dark comedy from the late 80s, Consuming Passions, is an adaptation of a play that was written by Monty Python members Michael Palin and Terry Jones. I bring this up not to overhype it and make it seem like it’s a lost Monty Python movie that everybody forgot about or something, but to give you an idea of the twisted humor and absurd sensibility that it puts on display. The film stars Tyler Butterworth as its bumbling protagonist, a long unemployed sad sack whose first day on a new job at a candy factory sees him bumbling so thoroughly that he knocks three guys into a giant vat of hot chocolate that’s getting ready to be molded into candy pieces, killing them instantly.
That’s not really the twisted part of the movie yet though. The twisted part comes when the three gentlemen actually end up inside of a batch of chocolates, those chocolates get shipped out to the public, and the public starts going crazy for how tasty and addictive they are. Suddenly, profits are through the roof, and the Butterworth character’s job and freedom both come to hinge on whether or not he can procure his bosses some more of their new secret ingredient, to keep the gravy train rolling. Consuming Passions takes the slapstick satire of the business world that later appeared in The Hudsucker Proxy and mixes it with a healthy dose of cannibalism. Plus, its climactic scene is the most profoundly clumsy dork-fight this side of Raising Arizona. It’s light enough and fun enough, but still disgusting enough, to be the perfect launching point for a gross-out candy-themed movie marathon that flies in the face of everything Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about.
The Stuff (1985)
Maybe including Larry Cohen’s The Stuff in a marathon of movies about candy is cheating a little, because the titular stuff isn’t exactly candy, per se, but The Stuff is sweet and addicting like candy, and you’d be hard-pressed to describe what it actually is, so thematically it still fits in rather nicely. Especially with our dark chocolate half of this candy marathon, because The Stuff is a disgusting horror movie that starts off with a weird substance bubbling out of the ground, takes off once the first hillbilly sticks his finger in it and tastes it, and goes on to tell a thoroughly disturbing story about addiction, bad decision making, and minds and bodies being melted and mutilated in splattery, sickening fashions.
In addition to being a full-on gore-a-thon, The Stuff also manages to be a wickedly fun sendup of the way marketing has taken over our world, the ease with which the public gets on board trends, and the uncertainty surrounding where exactly all of our processed food comes from. It’s a perfect movie for those looking to thumb their noses at a holiday that some say was invented to sell cheesy greeting cards and mass-produced chocolate. Plus, it comes with the added benefit of a jingle that’s guaranteed to dig its way into your brain and take over your life. Enough is never enough.
Sweet Movie (1974)
When it comes to candy-related movies that are gross, wrong, and just not appropriate for any situation, Dusan Makavejev’s experimental Sweet Movie is the king of candy mountain. While its plot meanders a bit, in general it tells the story of two women—a beauty pageant winner (Carole Laure) who has been declared to have the world’s prettiest vulva, who then gets passed around the world as a passive sort of sex object for various men, and who then provides a climactic moment for the movie when she’s stripped naked, covered in melted chocolate, and proceeds to writhe around in it for a good five minutes or so, and a ship’s captain (Anna Prucnal), who uses a room full of candy and a bed of sugar to lure young children (and sometimes young men) on board her boat, so that she can molest them (the details of which you see far too many of to not walk away from this movie profoundly disturbed) and ultimately murder them. Somewhere along the way there’s also asides that involve puking, pooping, peeing, the excavation of mass graves, and generally just anything you can think of that involves both the horrors of the human body and bad feelings.
There’s probably some valid artistic expression to be found in the way Sweet Movie shines a spotlight on the fact that human beings are all stinking, rotting, organic matter, and how our inherent desire to deny that fact continually leads us to invent hero tales, get plastic surgery, and put down everyone around us, but mostly it’s just a disgusting, difficult to watch exercise in shock that serves as the perfect opportunity for anyone who’s pissed off at Valentine’s Day to completely subvert the spirit of the holiday and send a giant fuck you to anyone who’s having fun with it. This is a vile movie meant to be watched by vile people. Enjoy!