If Jonathan Lipnicki is washed up at 18 and looking back on his career as a button-cute child star, "The Little Vampire" is will very likely be the picture that embarrasses him most.
A quick, sloppy production of a throwaway script about a little boy who befriends a family of bloodsuckers and helps them recover a magic amulet, it suffers from a pungent collective apathy that wafts off the screen from the cast and crew. The little kids in the picture seem like they're just playing vampire in grandma's dusty attic and not really trying to participate in the plot. The grown-ups in the cast (including respectable actors like Richard E. Grant and John Wood) give let's-get-this-over-with performances and most scenes feel like the director didn't say "Cut!" so much as "Oh that's good enough let's just move on."
Lipnicki ("Stuart Little," "Jerry Maguire") plays Tony, a kid from California who has just moved into a small, renovated Scottish castle with his completely vanilla mother (Pamela Gidley) and father (Tommy Hinkley), a golf course designer hired to build new links for a local lord (Wood).
Since their arrival Tony has had a recurring dream about a clan of vampires performing some kind of ceremony in which a comet passes over the moon and sends a beam of energy to a crystal housed in an amulet hanging around the head vampire's neck. Before long Tony is visited by one of the nightwalkers, an ashen kid named Rudolph (Rollo Weeks) who becomes sociable when Tony saves him from an ominously dingy, teeth-baring vampire hunter (Jim Carter) -- a kid flick menace from central casting who threatens to descend upon the good-natured vampires (they only drink cow's blood) throughout the balance of the movie.
The boys fly around together at night (if you're holding hands with a vampire, this is perfectly feasible in the movie's anything-goes mythology) and Tony helps Rudolph's Victorian-Goth-garbed family hunt for the amulet -- which went missing 300 years ago and has the power to make the vampires human again.
It's a barely serviceable plot, even for a kids' movie, but the unenthusiastic execution is so joyless that the picture doesn't stand a chance of overcoming its minefield of nonsensical and unexplained plot devices.
"The Little Vampire" may mildly amuse the youngest and least discriminating of children (OK, when the cows become vampire-cows, it's a little funny), but anyone over the age of 8 or 9 will no doubt feel like the undead themselves after watching this stinker.