Apparently this is the first movie in a gothic book series for teens called "Cirque du Freak." The series has its fans but I can't imagine it being very popular since I never even heard of it before. I'm not sure if the book jumped on the vampire bandwagon or it preceded it, but the movie clearly was made to strike while the fanged-iron is hot. The story is about a young boy who becomes (you guessed it) assistant to a vampire who travels with a Freak Show after he reluctantly sucked (ha) into a world of feuding ghouls. Imagine "Harry Potter" meets "Twilight" only with a lot more silliness. Acting veteran John C. Reilly stars as the vampire Larten Crepsley. I love Reilly and think he never gets the credit he deserves. He's proved his dramatic chops ("The Hours"), his comedic chops ("Walk Hard") and even his musical ones ("Chicago") but never gets the accolades. In "The Vampire's Assistant" he doesn't get to use much of any of those chops though. This film has such a horrible script that it doesn't give the actors a chance to do much of anything with it; even with great performers peppered in like Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, and Ken Watanabe. But even if the script was penned by Shakespeare himself, the star of the film who's a newcomer named Chris Massoglia, would still find a way to make it look like high school theater. I'm not sure who's nephew, son or friend's cousin he is, but how he landed this gig is a mystery to me. He is absolutely terrible! He plays through the different scenes that involve action, comedy, horror, drama and suspense with the same dumbfounded, wallpaper face that makes you think you're being punked by sitting through a movie with him as the star. But I did think the same thing of Daniel Radcliffe when I saw him in the first "Harry Potter" movie though and he got better. I do hope that this movie does well enough to earn the sequels it has planned. The story and characters are engaging, dark, funny and odd. It's the kind of movie that I would've loved as a 13-year-old. I'm interested in what comes next and I want to see how it all plays out. This first film in the episodic story is all set up and no conclusion, but is different enough to at least keep me watching to see where it goes from here. (Of course I could read the books, but who wants to do that.) It intrigues with questions but doesn't answer any. In a way I'm glad that it's not super great or ultra compelling because that would just be torture to have to wait for the next one. So in that respect I'm thankful, but taking what I imagine is a very engrossing, fun gothic teen tale and watering it down to this, I am not.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C+