To commemorate 18 Cinema Lane receiving over 400 followers, I was looking for the right movie to review for this occasion. But when I recently watched Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest film, Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I figured, why not give the readers what they want? Out of all the genres I’ve covered on my blog, the mystery genre is the most popular. My reviews of mystery films are some of my most viewed content. Currently, the review with the highest number of views is the one for Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill, sitting at 2,053 views and counting! So, this tells me, as a movie blogger, what kind of content my readers are interested in. But, as a movie blogger, I also know mystery films are not created equal. Is Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate the next classic mystery series or a “flash in the pan”? The only way to answer this question is by reading my review!
Things I liked about this film:
The acting: Nikki Deloach is one of Hallmark’s strongest actresses. She has proven to have the talent to lead both “rom-coms” (like Truly, Madly, Sweetly) and dramatic films (such as Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Love Takes Flight). Because of her experience working with Hallmark, Nikki was able to pull off an emotionally well-rounded performance in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate! After finding out who the murder victim is, Nikki’s character, Goldy, is devastated. Presented with tear-filled eyes, a quivering lip, and crossed arms, Goldy’s reaction feels realistic and genuine. Another realistic and genuine performance came from Andrew W. Walker! Over the years, I have seen several films starring Andrew. But most of these pictures have been “rom-coms”, meaning the material was more light-hearted. Andrew’s portrayal of Detective Tom was serious and professional. However, it was never static due to the incorporation of emotion. After Goldy leaves the police station one day, Tom is frustrated by Goldy’s meddling. His eyes contain the irritation he is feeling and his lips are set with a stern look.
The supporting cast was just as solid as the main cast! But there is one performance I want to point out. In some Hallmark productions, a female who is either a businesswoman or wealthier in financial status is presented as an “ice queen”. This means their personality is cold and they seem distant from the rest of the characters. Kendall Cross was cast in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate as Adele, a wealthy donor of Elk Park Prep. In a scene where Goldy visits Adele at her house, Adele confesses to Goldy something that happened in her past. The look on Adele’s face clearly shows how troubled she was about that past event. The slight frown, a gentler demeanor, and tears appearing in her eyes presents to the viewer how even well-to-do patrons like Adele have mysteries they need to solve. Kendall’s incorporation of genuine emotion allowed her character to break the “ice queen” mold!
Adele’s house: Hallmark films can sometimes feature impressive facilities. Adele’s house in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate definitely had that “wow” factor! I was head-over-heels when I first saw Adele’s house on screen, the structure boasting a nice mix of dark and light wood. A stunning porch jutted forward above the front door, complete with a clear, glass railing. The house interior was just as breath-taking! In the living room, a marble floor was partially covered by a maroon oriental rug. Medium brown leather armchairs sat in front of a massive gray stone fireplace. Even though the walls were cream colored, they are paired with a collection of antiques and modern art. The room even featured a beautiful marble bar! I’m not sure what this facility’s purpose is in real life. But, to me, it looked like an upscale ski resort!
The cinematography: Since Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate may be the first film in a potential series, I didn’t know what to expect from this production. The cinematography was such an unexpected surprise, especially when it came to the use of close-ups! In Hallmark movies revolving around food, more focus is given to the characters preparing the food instead of the final edible product. But in a few scenes in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, there were close-ups of some tasty looking appetizers! This creative decision showed the audience the kind of catering work Goldy specializes in and her clientele. There is one scene where Goldy is hiding in a closet. Since she is captured in close-up shots, an illusion is given to the audience that they are hiding alongside Goldy. In this same scene, someone appears to be approaching the closet. Also captured in close-up shots from Goldy’s hiding place, these images maintain the aforementioned illusion and the intended tone of the scene.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Few opportunities to get acquainted with the characters: At the beginning of any series, the first story typically introduces the audience to the characters and gets them acquainted with the world the characters exist in. But in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, these opportunities were either limited or non-existent. Without spoiling the movie, I will say the murder victim was a friend of Goldy’s. This was a strange creative decision because a friend of a mystery series’ protagonist typically sticks around longer than the first film. Having Goldy’s friend become the murder victim was disappointing, as they were killed off before the audience got a chance to know them. Some mystery series protagonists have at least one child. The series’ audience gets to know the protagonist’s child either through conversations with their respective parent or in separate subplots. Goldy has a daughter named Olive. But Olive was only featured in a handful of “don’t blink or you’ll miss her moments”. Once again, I was disappointed by this creative decision, as a good opportunity to get to know Olive was never given.
No balance between career woman and amateur sleuth: For the most part, the screenwriters of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ series have done a good job showing a healthy balance between a protagonist’s career and their amateur sleuthing. Some noteworthy examples include Aurora from Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, Amy from the Mystery 101 series, and Zee from the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series. But with Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, there was more emphasis on showing Goldy playing detective than featuring that aforementioned healthy balance. Because I’m not familiar with the catering industry, I was hoping to learn more through this story. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I learned anything new.
Limited amount of humor: As I’ve said in past reviews, humor is typically incorporated into Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ series to give the audience some distance from the heaviness of the murder mystery. In Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, though, the use of humor was very limited. There were a few times where I found myself laughing out loud. But for the most part, the overall tone was serious, which made the movie feel tonally heavy. It also didn’t help that the story solely focused on the murder mystery, instead of dividing that time with a more light-hearted subplot. The audience wasn’t given many chances to catch a break.
My overall impression:
As the saying goes, “go big or go home”. This quote can be applied to the start of any series. But in the case of Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I wish this movie had gone bigger. The pieces to start a potential series are there, ready to spring into action. With this introduction, however, it felt like I walked in on a conversation with little context provided. Similar to Cut, Color, Murder, I found a stronger story idea within Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. Toward the beginning of the movie, Goldy is catering an event at Elk Park Prep hosted by the Booster Club. While a catering career has rarely been prominently featured in a Hallmark production, I don’t recall Booster Clubs/PTA boards receiving a major focus in any Hallmark film. That could also be said for private schools. I’d like to think Curious Caterer can tell more stories down the road. But with little movement on other mystery titles from Hallmark’s second network, I’m honestly not sure what Curious Caterer’s future will look like.
Before I finish this review, I would like to thank all of my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane succeed! Achieving such an incredible milestone would not have been possible without you!
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Have you seen Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate? Which stand-alone mystery from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries would you like to see become a series? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!