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Movie Review: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire Assistant (October, 2009)

Director: Paul Weitz
Screenplay: Paul Weitz, gynecologist Brian Helgeland
Date of Release: October 23, sickness 2009 (U.S.)
Actors: John C. Reilly, drug Chris Massoglia, Josh Hutcherson, Willem Dafoe, Michael Cerveris, Ken Watanabe, Salma Hayek
Based on the book by Darren Shan

Tired of the brooding, gothic, sappy vampire stories? Turned off by constant blood sucking images? Want something different, perhaps even funny in the vampire world? Well, Cirque du Freak is the perfect balance of a fantasy world, quirkiness and comedy.

Enter Darren Shan (acted by Chris Massoglia), where we are first introduced to him, six feet under in a coffin, while he plays on a crackberry (or similar). Darren was once the straight A student in his school, who listens to everything his parents tell him to do, the goody goody who has no backbone. However, his best friend Steve (played by Josh Hutcherson) is the opposite, wild and unsatisfied with his life, ready to rebel at any given moment. After an intriguing ad for the “Cirque du Freak” show ends up at their feet, Darren and Steve decides to attend. There they meet vampire Larten Crepsley and his circus freak friends, and from that point on, both of their lives are completely changed forever.

I’m not one for vampire movies, but when the story is unique and does not go down the same romanticized path that so many other vampire films go, I take an interest in it. Lately, many of the vampire movies are based on books, and I find the changes the authors have made to the vampire folklore to be fascinating. Cirque du Freak has several, but in my opinion, are completely acceptable and believable. John C. Reilly’s Crepsley is a very likeable, and even humorous vampire. It’s very refreshing to see a vampire that isn’t brooding, isn’t stuck in high school, and has a very different vibe than the norm. The world that Darren Shan (the author, yes, the main character is of the same name) has created is amazingly creative. I have not yet read the book, but the characters – from Darren’s parents, his schoolmates, Steve, and the “freaks” at the circus are well fleshed out and their personalities seem to flourish on screen.

I wasn’t too impressed with Chris Massoglia’s Darren, and at times, he seemed rather blank and reminded me of Topher Grace from That 70’s Show. Thankfully, the other actors were able to mask his lack of personality on-screen, but perhaps that is exactly how Darren Shan is to be portrayed. I can only tell when the sequel is done (and that is a definite).

All in all, a very enjoyable film – expect lots of laughter. I don’t want to reveal much, but the short little scary looking creatures remind me almost of Gollum from Lord of the Rings and finding out where they come from was a delight for me. The plot is well thought out (I guess, given that it comes from a book), but I cannot compare it with the book. However, it’s intrigued me enough that I intend to read the first book of the series.

If you enjoy fantasy, I definitely recommend this film.

Recommended. 3 assistants / 5 assistants.

Other Links:
Youtube: View The Trailer

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