The Little Vampire Reviewby Michael Dequina (twotrey AT juno DOT com)
November 4th, 2000
_The_Little_Vampire_ (PG) ** (out of ****)
"But it's only a kids' movie." That's the likely response to any criticisms leveled at _The_Little_Vampire_, a fantasy-adventure-comedy that is unmistakably made for the younger set--who, I have no doubt in my mind, will react positively to the film. Yes, the movie is clean. Yes, the movie will hold the tots' attention. But should that be ample reason to subject your children to such a shoddy product? I don't think so.
Jonathan Lipnicki plays Tony Thompson, who along with his mother (Pamela Gidley) and father (Tommy Hinkley), has just moved from America to the Scotland countryside. Tony's problems fitting in at school are made worse by his recurring dreams about vampires--the reasons for which become clear one night when he is visited by Rudolph (Rollo Weeks), the little vampire of the title. The two quickly become best friends, and soon Tony finds himself helping Rudolph and his family--father Frederick (Richard E. Grant), mother Frida (Alice Krige), sister Anna (Anna Popplewell), and older brother Gregory (Dean Cook)--locate the missing piece of an amulet that could grant them their greatest wish: to become human again.
Sounds all nice and cute, which it probably was in Angela Sommer-Bodenburg's original novels. But something has been lost in the translation. While the effects, photography, and costuming (though Rudolph is made to look like a miniature member of the '80s band a-ha) are decent, Karey Kirkpatrick and Larry Wilson's script has a fair share of irritating plot holes (just exactly why is Tony able to have psychic visions?), and the comic sequences are rendered annoying by director Uli Edel's (yes, the same Uli Edel who last directed the 1993 Madonna fuckfest _Body_of_Evidence_) heavy hand. Case in point: a subplot involving a weirdo vampire hunter (Jim Carter).
What proves most ruinous, however, are the performances that range from phoned-in to barely-there. The central performance falls in the latter category. Four years after stealing scenes in the not-for-kids _Jerry_Maguire_, the now-10-year-old Lipnicki is given his first starring vehicle with _Vampire_, and the moppet proves far from up to the task. Adult actors certainly can't coast by on cuteness alone, and that goes tenfold for child stars, whose smiles and giggles can get really annoying really quickly. The case of the bespectacled Lipnicki is even worse, for his cuteness factor is rapidly diminishing; now that the size of his body is about caught up with that of his head, there's nothing distinctively "cute" about him. One's left to focus on whatever acting ability is there, and between his robotic line readings and stone face--which, it seems, can only be smiling or sullen--one would be hard-pressed to find any.
One would also have difficulty finding much of anything in _The_Little_Vampire_ that will appeal beyond the target kid audience. For some parents, that will be enough, but shouldn't a so-called "family film" truly have something of worth to offer to everyone of every age?
©2000 Michael Dequina
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