January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin

Like the rich treat it is named after, Chocolat is overly sweet and without nutritional value. A whimsical romantic fable directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules), the film tells the story of a beautiful unwed mother (Binoche) who shows up with her young daughter in a French village and opens a gourmet chocolate shop. Soon, half the folks in town are benefiting from the magically aphrodisiac and rejuvenating qualities of her wares while others, including the moralistic mayor (Alfred Molina), are denouncing her because she’s peddling candy during Lent.

Binoche and Depp (playing a cute Irish drifter who floats into town on a riverboat) make a fetching pair, but Chocolat runs longer than either its Hershey’s Kiss-size plot or sugary charm warrant. While pleasant enough, its mixing of food, romance and magic is a recipe already better confected in 1992’s Like Water for Chocolate. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: For serious sweet tooths only

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