Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant **
Following the success of last year’s Twilight, vampires are officially an in thing in Hollywood right now, and now comes Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, based on the popular book series by Darren Shan (he actually thought so much of himself to use his own name as the titular character), a film which many are calling the boy’s answer to Twilight (interestingly director Paul Weitz is the brother of Chris Weitz who is directing the upcoming Twilight sequel). This is likely an overstatement, though, as not only does Cirque Du Freak lack the sizable (and ravenous) fanbase of the Twilight series but the film also lacks the level of anticipation of last year’s more romantically orientated vampire flick, with trailers that are little more than so-so, failing to make it clear whether the film is meant to be a horror, a comedy or an adventure (or an awkward mix of the three), a cast line up that is considerably less then spectacular and a basic concept that just lacks the allure of that other vampire series. Consequently, Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is a film that may well be overlooked during this half term holiday, and not without good reason.
Sixteen-year-old Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia) leads a dull suburban life – until the fateful night that he and his best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) visit a travelling freak show where Darren falls under the spell of a vampire name Larten Crepsley (John C Reilly). Newly undead, Darren joins the Cirque Du Freak, a touring sideshow filled with monstrous (and not so monstrous) creatures including Evra the Snake Boy (Patrick Fugit), the Wolfman (Tom Woodruff Jr.), Alexander Ribs (Orlando Jones), Rhamus Twobellies (Frankie Faison), monkey girl Rebecca (Jessica Carlson), bearded lady Madame Truska (Salma Hayek), gigantic ringmaster Mr Tall (Ken Watanabe) and many others. As Darren experiments with his new powers in this dark world, he becomes caught between the vampires who are his friends and their much deadlier counterparts including the villainous Mr Tiny (Michael Cerveris) and Murlaugh (Ray Stevenson). Now he must struggle to keep their rising hostilities from devouring what’s left of his humanity.
When it comes to Hollywood adaptations of fantasy books, most films can be classified into two categories – the good ones that everyone loves and will be remembered for years to come, and the mediocre ones that will be forgotten shortly after leaving the cinema. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant sadly falls into the latter category. The reason for this is that pretty much everything about the film is decidedly mediocre. The (already unspectacular) cast fails to impress, partly due to poorly written characters and partly due to an apparent lack of effort on the part of the actors. Only a few cast members manage to be particularly amusing and then not very often. It is also a shame to see actors such as Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek and Jane Krakowski only appear in a few scenes, as they seem to be among the better performers of the film. The fault for the film’s mediocrity isn’t entirely at the feet of the cast though but mostly director and co-writer Paul Weitz who delivers an incoherent and uninteresting storyline that mostly just seems to be setting up for sequels that will likely never happen (considering the film’s poor performance at the US box office) and is completely lacking the substance that would make it seem like a movie rather than a cheap television pilot, which is exactly what it seems like. Barring the occasional gag that does hit the mark, the film pretty much fails to provide and laughs, it isn’t scary on any level (even though some of the freaks are bit gross) and the excitement factor is sorely lacking. So, overall Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is an extremely disappointing forgettable vampire flick that has very little value as a piece of entertainment. Young viewers who want something to do over the half term holiday may get some enjoyment out of it but anyone else who wants to see a vampire flick would be better off saving their money until New Moon hits cinemas.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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