Darren (Massoglia) is an A-student 16-year-old whose best pal Steve (Hutcherson) keeps getting him into trouble. When they hear about the underground Cirque du Freak, they can't resist a visit. There they meet ringmaster Mr Tall (Watanabe), bearded seer Truska (Hayek) a snake boy (Fugit), monkey girl (Carlson) and many more. But soon they're entangled with the show's star, vampire Crepsley (Reilly), and his mortal enemy Mr Tiny (Cerveris). And when Crepsley makes Darren a vampire, Steve gets so jealous that he joins the other side.
The plot's like a comical, teen-friendly version of True Blood, as the central conflict is between vampires who don't kill humans and the "vampirese" who do.
But instead dark and gothic, the filmmakers keep things light and often wacky.
Everyone cracks jokes, the violence isn't too grisly, and the characters and plot only get mildly shadowy. Although there is some serious subtext, mainly some bleak moments involving Steve's personal journey.
It of course helps that the cast is this colourful and talented. Reilly is marvellously tetchy as Crepsley, trying to teach the reluctant Darren the ropes while fending off Mr Tiny's scheme and resisting a romance with Truska. Hayek manages to create a bit more of a character than the cartoonish, cameo-style roles given to Dafoe, Krakowski, Fugit and others. And the teen trio are engaging and watchable, although only Hutcherson is required to show any real acting chops (which we already know he has).
As the big conflict boils over into a major showdown, the chain of events doesn't make very clear sense. Why does Mr Tiny bother with Darren when he already has Steve? Why do they play this sadistic game with hostages when previous scenes show them to be more ruthless than this? Less-demanding viewers won't care about these things, and it's likely that the next episode will deepen everything considerably. Sure, this light approach keeps it entertaining, but it also prevents it from being a classic.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd October 2009
Box Office USA: $13.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $28.2M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 51 Rotten: 84
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Paul Weitz
Producer: Ewan Leslie, Lauren Shuler Donner
Starring: John C. Reilly as Larten Crepsley, Josh Hutcherson as Steve, Chris Massoglia as Darren Shan, Patrick Fugit as Evra the Snake Boy, Salma Hayek as Madame Truska, Jessica Carlson as Rebecca, Michael Cerveris as Mr. Tiny, Ray Stevenson as Murlaugh, Daniel Newman as Pete, Morgan Saylor as Annie, Don McManus as Mr. Shan, Ken Watanabe as Mr. Tall, Orlando Jones as Alexander Ribs, Frankie Faison as Rhamus Twobellies, Willem Dafoe as Gavner Purl, Kristen Schaal as Gertha Teeth, Patrick Breen as Mr. Kersey, Tom Woodruff Jr. as Wolfman, Jane Krakowski as Corma Limbs, Drew Rin Varick as Loaf Head, Colleen Camp as Mrs. Shan
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