The Chocolate War is novel by author Robert Cormier (he died in 2000). It was first published in 1974. Many high schools added it to their reading lists. By the '90s The Chocolate War was causing major controversy. In an ACLU list of the most "banned" books of the '90s, The Chocolate War was in the top ten. In 1998 it spiked at Number One.

The Chocolate War was made into a movie in 1988. It was directed by Keith Gordon (he’s probably best known as the lead in the movie adaptation of Christine… you know the nerdy dark haired guy that buys the demon car). The Chocolate War is one of those movies that people LOVE if they have not read the book. However, those that have read and loved the book just generally balk at the screen adaptation. (Having not read the book, I loved this movie.)

The book/movie, in a nut shell, is about Jerry, an outcast high school student at a strict Catholic school, who refuses to partake in the school’s annual chocolate sale fund raiser. Jerry is first put up to his non compliance by a secret gang of toughs (a sort of teenaged Knights Templar). Not selling chocolates on behalf of the school is so freaking unthinkable, it’s considered the ultimate cruel and impossible initiation hazing ritual for the new kid Jerry. Jerry soon comes see the hypocrisy inherent in a so-called Catholic school that gives the sadistic teacher Brother Leon free reign. Jerry begins to refuse to sell the chocolates for his own reasons. And then the fun begins. The book/movie is ultimately an attack on conformity and the less than palatable mechanisms society uses to make people conform, ostensibly for their own good.

What mostly pisses off fans of the book is the movie’s ending is not faithful to the book. In fact, its ending is nearly the polar opposite of the book. (Explaining the differences in ending would ruin both the book and movie.) However, fans of the book should be cautioned to view this movie as more of an antidote to the large number of feel good films John Hughes puked up in that decade, films that all seemed to tell kids “all teenage problems can be solved if you just learn to dance like fools!”

(I couldn’t sleep tonight if I didn’t squeeze in a mention that director Keith Gordon is one of the few directors to do an excellent screen adaptation of a Kurt Vonnegut film. Gordon did the excellent, albeit over looked, film version of Vonnegut’s Mother Night. Maybe borrowing from the larger criticism of The Chocolate War, Gordon didn’t much muck with Mother Night.)

The Chocolate War also has one of the best soundtracks that never, ever got released as a soundtrack CD (did people use CDs in 1988? I can’t remember). It mostly featured more obscure works by Yaz. Gordon was rather keen to release a soundtrack but the film was made on a shoe-string budget and buying the song right to create a soundtrack was not feasible. Apparently Gordon is regularly asked by fans of the film if a soundtrack is ever going to come up. With a wink and a nod, Gordon notes the songs are actually widely available (wink) and he likes making friends (nod) mix tapes (nose tap) from songs featured (tap foot twice under washroom stall) in the movie (flash secret devil sign with fingers)

Songs featured in The Chocolate War:

"In My Room"

"Only You"

"Sheperd's Song"
Scott Cossu

"We do what we're told"
Peter Gabriel

"Everybody Gotta Know"
Joan Armatrading

"I have the touch"
Peter Gabriel

"Ode to Boy"

"Running Up that Hill (A deal with God)"
Kate Bush

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