— by TOM ELCE —
Based on the first three books of the Darren Shan series (only one of which I read), “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” thrusts a normal teenage kid into an unreal world of vampires and monsters, robbing him from his unspectacular everyday life and pitting him right at the center of a war between two factions of bloodsuckers.
“Cirque du Freak” made for a slim but entertaining enough book, yet this combo of the first trio of written installments threatens to be a non-event if this unspectacular clip is anything to go by. Superficially, it’s got everything — our hero, a CG-rendered little guy and a hot woman (in this case: Salma Hayek) — but there’s no atmosphere of which to speak.
There’s the same grumbly music and the same tint of blue we always get with these teen-targeted, goth-aping films, not to mention some pretty unspectacular acting. Hayek arrives to meet Shan (Chris Massoglia) and spouts out a series of ominous words — “death,” “despair,” yada — with wide eyes as Massoglia retains a similar expression. The clip captures what appears to be a nothing moment (read: bad things will happen to you!) that ends with a nothing joke.
The film’s directed by “American Pie” helmer Paul Weitz, who’s no doubt wishing to put the abominable “American Dreamz” behind him, and stars John C. Reilly (of “Walk Hard”), Willem Dafoe (of “Spider-Man”) and Patrick Fugit (of “Almost Famous”), among others. Best among the young cast is Josh Hutcherson, who I think — based on his excellent performances in “Little Manhattan” and “Bridge to Terabithia” — would have made a good choice for playing the main character.
“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” is slated for release on Oct. 23.
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