A Halloween Special: Life Lessons We Can Learn From the Use of Candy in Movies

I have a pretty bad sweet tooth. It’s gotten me into trouble before, and, in fact, my ex-girlfriend once said, “I’ve never seen anyone consume as much sugar as you.” I struggle with this often, whistling past the drugstore and supermarket candy aisles like they’re a graveyard, reminding myself that my teeth, my midsection, and my general health don’t need those treats. Therefore, as you can imagine, this is my least favorite time of year. Actually, it’s the week after Halloween that’s worse because all that leftover candy is half-priced, but you get the drift. I don’t like anything about Halloween and all its sweet, candy-coated goodness. No costumes, no tomfoolery, no spooky nonsense, none of it.

But, since I’m also not a killjoy, and I recognize that others are awfully keen on this whole shindig, it occurred to me that there was a way to look at the proceedings through a different lens, one that might offer some sage wisdom for those of us in the entertainment industry. Thus, it is for that reason that I present to you a few lessons we can learn from how certain movies utilize these sugary treats. Sounds silly, I know, but stay with me here, because I’m about to drop some serious bonbons of knowledge.


E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Reese’s Pieces

The Lesson: Adapt to the unexpected. 

You might not be aware that, in the original screenplay for E.T., Elliot uses M&Ms to lure his alien friend out of hiding. However, when the production approached M&M/Mars for permission to use the rainbow-colored chocolate candies, it was refused because the confectionary company was under the impression that E.T. was a horror movie, and it didn’t want its product associated with such a thing. In 1982, Reese’s Pieces were pretty new on the market, so when Steven Spielberg and Co. wanted to use them instead, the Hershey Company jumped at the opportunity and the gamble paid off, as the candy quickly became part of cinematic history. Now that’s how you turn a setback into a triumph, and make it look like that was the plan all along.

Gump Chocolate

Forrest Gump and the box of chocolates

The Lesson: Sometimes the best answer is the most simple answer.

The thing about a box of chocolates is that, as a matter of fact, you always know what you’re going to get. But even if Forrest’s central thesis is wrong — or, I suppose, his mother’s thesis — the central idea is sound. It’s essentially Occam’s Razor, that the simplest solution is usually the correct one. People are always making things more difficult than they need to be, but the box of chocolates is proof that we don’t need to overcomplicate things anymore than they have to be.


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and literally every kind of candy

The Lesson: Excess is almost always a bad thing.

Each and every kid who comes into Willy Wonka’s haunt ends up far worse for the wear, thanks to indulging in something they shouldn’t. Even Charlie himself almost meets his maker because of too much Burp Cola. This is a lesson that Hollywood continually faces, but tends to ignore, which is a shame because that very excess is one of the biggest reasons the industry is having so much trouble right now. It’s not always true that less is more, but it’s still something that should be considered far more often around here than it is.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, ditto

The Lesson: Remakes are usually a mistake.

This comes up often enough that you’d think it would’ve been taken to heart by now, but there it is. Sure, sometimes remakes can be somewhat successful from a financial perspective, but that doesn’t stop them from usually being pretty creatively bankrupt, as in this particular case. Take it one step further and it’s like the characters in the movie itself, and the tasty temptations they simply can’t resist — these projects look appetizing, but ultimately they’ll be pretty bad for whomever takes them on.


Chocolat and, well, chocolates

The Lesson: Never underestimate the power of a brilliant marketing campaign.

Take a sickly sweet little piece of garbage, advertise it as some big, sweeping, romantic epic, bake well, and voila, you have yourself an Oscar nominee for Best Picture. It’s a good reminder, even 17 years later, of the power that marketing and advertising hold, helping a mediocre movie to succeed where it might not otherwise. Do it right, and you get a result like this, with five Oscar nominations and over $150 million worldwide in 2000, when that was really impressive. Do it wrong, and you wind up watching a movie that actually deserves an audience (like, say, The Mountain Between Us) slip through the cracks.


Caddyshack and a Baby Ruth bar

The Lesson: Don’t be the guy who poops in the pool.

Even if it’s actually a candy bar and not really poop, it’ll only cause mass panic and hysteria, not to mention a whole lot of irrational behavior. When the Baby Ruth hits the fan, so to speak, you’ll be the one left holding the bag, and you could have easily avoided it, if only you had restrained yourself. This has probably never been more true than it is now, though it should have been something we all knew long ago. If you live your life by the simple rule “Don’t be a jerk,” then this is a lesson you’ve already learned. Sadly, there are far too many people in this town who haven’t learned it yet, and perhaps never will.

Some of these lessons are timeless, but this time of year is as good as any for some reflection. We might not be able to take advantage of all this candy that seems to be everywhere, but we can satisfy ourselves instead with these tasty morsels. Sure, they’re not as immediately satisfying, but they’re sure a lot healthier.

Neil Turitz 2 is a filmmaker and journalist who has spent close to two decades working in and writing about Hollywood. Feel free to send him a tweet at @neilturitz. He’ll more than likely respond.

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Still quiet here.sas

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