Lasse Hallstrom's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Cider House Rules is exactly the type of work that screams for critics to use adjectives such as "delectable" and "delicious," and while it may earn a few of them, Chocolat, despite its handsome mounting and game cast, still feels like a warmed-over, second-rate novel. Juliette Binoche brings her otherworldly star luster to an underimagined leading role, often giving the story more edge than is truly present, and Judi Dench is believable as an elderly matriarch known for her crustiness, similarly transcending the blandness of the material. One of the film's main debits is its sanctimony toward its audience. Instead of letting viewers truly get inside the characters' heads, they're often told who to root for and who not, and the treatment of Binoche's chocolaterie owner is so coarse at times that one might think she owned a XXX video shop instead. Like 1999's similarly pared-down, flavorless Cider House (by the same studio and filmmaker), the movie plays by too many conventional rules to make much of an impression, becoming more like one of the chocolates sold in the leading lady's store: kind of sweet, but you want to move on to another as soon as possible.