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Starring: John C. Reilly, Chris Massoglia, Josh Hutcherson, Patrick Fufit, Willem Dafoe, Jessica Carlson

Director: Paul Weitz

Writer(s): Paul Weitz, Brian Helgeland

Cinematography: J. Michael Munro

Original Score: Stephen Trask

Running Time: 108 Mins.

Since the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, “children’s” novels have been snapped up left right and centre by studios, after all if the book is one in a series, the potential is there for many films and a very solid cash cow. Sadly not all of these book-to- film adaptation’s have worked, some, like The Golden Compass, failed to make the big money needed to warrant forging ahead with a second, some have just about scraped by, the Narnia series which has shifted studios for next chapter The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and some have been a flyaway success, Twilight being the most blatant recent example. So it comes as no big surprise that Cirque Du Freak: The Vampires Assistant is both based on a series of books and features, unsurprisingly given the title, vampire’s much like Twilight.

The similarities with the Twilight series do not end there, there are two warring factions of vampire (good and bad), and a werewolf and a teenage lead whom looks, coincidentally I’m sure, a lot like Edward (R Patz) of Twilight fame. Thankfully though superficial similarities are all the films (and franchises) share in common, where Twilight (the film) was dark and brooding with an abundence of teenage angst The Vampire’s Assistant is refreshingly light and fun, with a knowing great line in sarcastic humour, courtesy of the great John C. Reilly.

Yes a film that isn’t dark, it’s such a relief to be able to write that seeing as the criteria for any film nowadays’ seems to be darkness with added despair, sadly this has become not a byword for edgy, as once was the case, but for dullness, see Twilight and the later Pirates of the Caribbean for two examples. Film’s it would seem have lost their sense of fun, and lost the abilty to offer great escapism however it is in rediscovering this sense of fun that The Vampire’s Assistant succeeds.

That the cast have a blast in their freakish parts goes a long way to enhancing the mood, John C. Reilly is the stand out as Krepsley, the good vampire who turns 16 year old Darren, newcomer Chris Massoglia, into one of his kind, Reilly who has always been a great character actor gets his Jack Sparrow moment here, and has some good sparring going on with Massoglia and in a cameo role Willem Dafoe as a fellow head bloodsucker. Padding out the cast are the likes of Hayek and Fugit who work well with their very limited material.

The effects are used sparingly but to great effect, with the use of make up over CGI always great to see as it gives a great feel of authenticity and genuine creepiness, in fact the werewolf here is likely one of the freakiest designs your ever likely to find.Sadly the limited running time and attempt to squeeze so much into it means a lot of character’s are simply passers-by, aside from Reilly there is no-one that becomes particularly memorable with two lead boys, Hutcherson and Massoglia,  largely out acted by whoever they are on-screen with, thankfully this poses little problem as here they both act merely as spectators, providing us a view into the freaky world of vampires and other such oddities.

For all its lightness and fun The Vampires Assistant has one major flaw, and that is very much like The Golden Compass it feels like one long setup for a much more epic second and possibly third, or fourth film, building up to Darren’s transformation it plays out like an origin story that has a very rushed third act simply to provide some closure to it as a stand-alone film, sadly it doesn’t work as it feels just that, rushed and anti-climatic.

Having not read the books I think thats attempting to squeeze the plot of the first three novels in the series into one film was not the wisest move, and can’t help feeling that in sticking to one there may not have been as many plot peaks but the story would have worked better as a stand-alone piece. This means that not only does the pacing feel slightly amiss from an hour in but also we are left looking forward to a sequel that likely won’t happen due to this film’s largely poor reception stateside, which once more, like The Golden Compass before it, is a great shame given the potential. 

VERDICT

It is great to see a film that is quite simply fun to watch, especially where John C. Reilly is concerned, it’s just a shame that the attempt to spin Cirque Du Freak: The Vampires Assistant into an origin story rather than a stand alone piece means the final third feels rushed in an attempt at kick-starting yet another franchise. 

grade-c

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