Circus of the Freak
Meet Darren. He's sixteen going on immortal.
Running Time: 109 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A
Country: United States
Just in case you havent noticed, there are a lot of vampires skulking around lately. I blame Twilight, because most of the vamps of late are more angst than bloodsuck, which just defeats the purpose in my bookI mean, seriously, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had more death and destruction than these guys! And so it goes with the vampires of Cirque du Freak: The Vampires Assistanttheyre the freakin friendly undead who only snack on peoples blood.
Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) is a pretty normal 16-year-old guyin fact, hes pretty unremarkable. Then one day, he and his vampire-obsessed best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) get a flyer about a freak show making its way through town, and depending on your point of view, its all either up or downhill from there. Darren ends up being a half-vampire, joining the Cirque du Freaks, and is forced to choose between living his new life as one of the good vampires with mentor Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) or turning to the baddies and going all bloodlust as one of the dreaded Vampaneze.
This is a movie thats just full of flaws, but the biggest disappointment is that it never seems to figure out what audience it wants to commit to. Admittedly, I know nothing about the series of books from whence this came, but it seems theyre aimed at the tween crowd (a horrible term, by the way), which is, from what I hear, ages 9 to 14. Thats a pretty diverse range, but the action reflects that lack of focus. There are some humorous moments, and there are some pseudo-scary moments, and there are some heavy-handed life lessonstheres sap and scary. Nothing ever flows, though, and where it could have gone for a good tweaking of the vampire genre (like the scene we see in the trailer in which Reilly assesses the validity of the bat myth), it doesnt. Nor does it go as magical as it couldor even as good vs. evil as it could. So much is wasted here; somehow, they were able to gather not only Reilly, but Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, Jane Krakowski, and Ken Watanabe, but save for Reilly (who actually is pretty good as the non-evil vampire teaching his new charge the ways of the undead world), none of them are seen for more than a few minutes of screen time combined. Instead, the majority of the film is spent with Massoglias Darren, who seems like a nice enough fellow but is so uber-bland as to almost disappear from memory when the scene is over. Thats always a problem, but there were so many strings left dangling at the end of this film that its obvious someones looking to make a second installment, and with such a dull vamp boy leading the way, Id really just rather stay home and watch my Buffy DVDs.
It's Got: A nifty looking spider, some funny moments, a whole lot of build-up
It Needs: To make better use of its talent, to figure out its intended audience, a more charismatic lead guy
Alternatives:Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Twilight
An interesting story that doesn’t really deliver on its potential, this one may get in on the big vampire train making its way through pop culture, but its inability to find itself is disappointing.