Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review - Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

A teenage boy Darren Shan, is given the opportunity to become a vampire after seeing a Freak Show that comes through his local town. Darren is taught the true nature of Vampires and that becoming one does not entail killing people or living forever. What Darren doesn't realize however, is that in becoming a vampire, he triggers old enemies to resurface and begin a bitter rivalry.

It seems lately we cannot escape vampires. They are quickly turning into an over-used fad much like the Disaster or Spoof films have in their own regard. "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is based off a series of books penned by Darren Shan titled The Saga of Darren Shan. The film is comprised of the first 3 books within The Vampire Blood Trilogy, leaving us to speculate that there is a potential for more films in the series of 12 books.

While "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" isn't great, it is a light-hearted and enjoyable take on the vampire genre that spins a unique perspective on vampires. The story does move rather quickly for being derived from 3 books, but I really couldn't imagine seeing this series drawn out like the Harry Potter or Twilight series have been, with each book warranting it's own film. The story is simple enough and doesn't really stretch the imagination from what we've previously seen done in the genre. That said, 'Cirque Du Freak' delivers a refreshing and enticing story that is completely unique with it's take on vampire lore.

The script penned by Paul Weitz and Brian Helgeland is pretty witty but, there is no denying that the from the get go, you know exactly where the story is going. There really is no surprises within 'Cirque Du Freak,' yet the film is a nice escape for the 109 minute running time. Because the film is based off 3 different books, most of the characters outside of Darren, Steve (Josh Hutcherson) and Larten Crepsley seem glossed over. Having a majority of the characters only slightly developed here in 'Cirque Du Freak' left me wanting more and even an appetite for delving into the series of books. Despite wanting more from the film, one thing did ring true, it's a solid start.

John C. Riley is priceless as Larten Crepsley, the vampire who turns Darren into a half-vampire. Everything about Riley's character is a riot throughout the fantasy comedy. His persona, his look, his hair and last but definitely not least, his wit. Riley delivers his dialogue flawlessly providing great laughs, never for a second losing your attention while on screen. Riley is perfect as the mentor to Darren Shan played by Chris Massoglia. The two actors convey a solid chemistry that has the potential to develop nicely if more films ensue.

Chris Massoglia, on the other hand, only delivered a capable performance when compared with Riley. Massoglia never seemed to be fully comfortable in the role, which may have been the angle director Paul Weitz wanted. The theme to The Vampire's Blood Trilogy is largely insecurity, which Massoglia did seem to nail. I guess in the end, I never fully connected with Massoglia performance, even though I was very intrigued by his character Darren Shan. I wanted to like him so much more, but his portrayal only left me halfway captivated.

The supporting cast of "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" does a remarkable job with limited screen time. I loved Ray Stevenson as Murlaugh and Patrick Fugit as Evra the Snake Boy. While the two were never on screen together, both delivered exceptional performances. Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe, Willem Dafoe and Kristen Schaal all provided impeccable deliveries as their specific characters. Even Orlando Jones, who usually drives me crazy, was stomachable as Alexander Ribs.

The downside to 'Cirque Du Freak' is it's main villain, Mr. Tiny. Played by Michael Cerveris from television's Fringe, his makeup is beyond distracting throughout the entire film and furthermore, his overall persona had my stomach turning every time he was on screen. I don't know how closely Weitz stuck to this character in the book, but here in the film he felt like a cross between Liberace and King Pin from Spider-Man and Daredevil comic books.

Overall "Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is a film I would definitely watch again and moderately hope more films are made. I'd like to see this series developed into something more and perhaps allowing another director a chance at the reigns. It has the potential to be something much better, but that doesn't mean, it's starting point didn't deliver. It just didn't deliver as effectively as it could have.