Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
Reviewed by Clint and Heather McCrocklin
Starring John C. Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia, Jessica Carlson, Salma Hayek
Directed by Paul Weitz
This past weekend at Fantastic Film Festival in downtown Austin, TX, the movie Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant had its premiere to a cautiously optimistic audience. Why the caution, you ask? Rarely does a movie truly capture the magic of its source material, in this case the popular series of Cirque Du Freak books written by Darren Shan. Let your worst fears be confirmed. Instead of the big screen telling we all had hoped for, our beloved story has been maimed and distorted to a degree which renders it all but completely unrecognizable.
When Darren (Massoglia), an average boy, gets tired of his average life, he sets out to the freak show that just rolled into town with his best friend, Steve (Hutcherson). Once there the duo drinks in performances by the Snake-boy, the Wolf-man, and of course Larten Crepsley (Reilly) and his giant venomous spider, Madame Octa. When Steve is bitten by Madame Octa, Darren offers his servitude to Crepsley in exchange for the antidote to Octa's venom and becomes a "half-vampire". With nowhere else to turn, he joins the Cirque du Freak, a traveling sideshow. Meanwhile through various means his now jealous friend ends up joining an opposing vampire clan, thus inciting a battle of epic proportions (which is yet to be seen).
In short, this movie was forgettable. It wasn't bad per se, but it's not something you would recommend to anyone either. Director Paul Weitz did a good job of using a rich color palette to make his movie aesthetically pleasing to the eye and he even managed to conjure up a good dark tone that seemed just right for this series. The acting was okay although they could have picked someone better to play the role of Darren. Chris Massoglia was a little too bland, and it was difficult to relate to or care about his character around halfway through the film. Michael Cerveris' performance as Mr. Tiny, on the other hand, was the high point of the experience as he did a good job of exuding evil. It's a shame he didn't have more screen time or his story wasn't more developed because that could have made this vapid little film somewhat more memorable.
What else went wrong? The special effects were a little too cartoonish, and while it's obviously aimed at a youngish crowd, sitting through this flick was akin to watching drivel like Son of the Mask every time a vampire used his ability to "flit." The story was excessively shallow with little to no character development, and you don't get to know any of them for more than two seconds before being rushed to the next needless plot point.
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant is not a classic nor is it something you would want to share with your kids or grandkids. While it's obviously aimed at the "tweener" crowd, it's hard to see how this flaccid little movie could appeal to even the youngest of viewers much less anyone with common sense.
1 1/2 out of 5
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