Wednesday, 10 March 2010
FILM REVIEW: CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT
Whether it's a case of reading the zeitgeist or sibling rivalry, filmmaking brothers Chris and Paul Weitz (of American Pie fame) have both opted to make their latest films vampire ones. Chris directed the second in the Twilight saga, New Moon, while brother Paul has made Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant.
Based on a bestselling series of books (and aren't they all?), The Vampire's Assistant is a rather uneven film, trying to maintain a PG-rating for its key demographic while skating around some much darker and subversive subjects. It's material a young Tim Burton may have happily cut his teeth on, although with much more bite.
Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) is your average teen boy: a pretty cushy home life despite somewhat pushy but well meaning parents, a fascination with spiders and a best friend Stephen (Josh Hutcherson) who brings brawn and rebellion to the friendship. Stephen also has a fascination with vampires and wants to become one; his home life makes being undead a viable alternate life choice.
But Stephen's rejection by Mr Crepsley (John C. Reilly), a vampire and performer in a travelling freak show, the Cirque du Freak, sets events in motion, pitting best buds on opposing sides of a battle of good and evil.
This battle is gleefully orchestrated by Mr Tiny (Michael Cerveris), a boiled egg of a man who's as camp as Christmas and has knowledge of a destructive prophecy which he hopes to bring about. Crepsley is reluctantly drawn into the battle, precipitated somewhat by his making Chris a half vampire and his assistant.
All of this may give the impression of an epic but The Vampire's Assistant is not. The books upon which it has been adapted (authored by Darren Shan, who obviously has his ego in check!) may very well be but Weitz's film is hardly in the same realm as Harry Potter. And the box office failure of the film in the US probably means there will be no sequel.
Still, for all its shortcomings there is some fun to be had here. Reilly makes a very droll vampire in his against-type casting – and pleasantly bucking the recent trend of sulky, posing vamps – while Selma Hayek, as a bearded lady with psychic premonitions, is also fun, despite her limited screen time, most of which is devoted to her ample bosom.