Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

2009

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Critics Consensus

This overstuffed, scattershot vampire flick suffers from poor characterization and an unwieldy mix of scares and chuckles.

38%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 139

42%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 495,107
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Movie Info

Based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant tells the story of a small-town teen who inadvertently shatters a 200-year-old truce between warring factions of vampires. Sixteen-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) is your typical adolescent; he spends most of his time with his best friend, Steve (Josh Hutcherson), earns decent grades, and generally manages to stay out of trouble. But trouble finds Darren when he and Steve make the acquaintance of a vampire named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) while attending a traveling freak show at a local theater. Transformed into a bloodsucker by Crepsley, Darren joins the Cirque Du Freak and quickly ingratiates himself with the unusual cast of characters who populate it, including Madame Truska the Bearded Lady (Salma Hayek) and the traveling sideshow's towering barker (Ken Watanabe). As Darren works to master his newfound powers as a budding member of the supernatural underworld, he becomes a valued pawn between the vampires and their deadlier rivals, the Vampaneze. With tensions between the two sects intensifying, Darren must figure out a means of keeping the coming war from destroying his last vestige of humanity. Patrick Fugit, Orlando Jones, Willem Dafoe, and Jane Krakowski co-star.

Cast

John C. Reilly
as Larten Crepsley
Chris Massoglia
as Darren Shan
Ken Watanabe
as Mr. Tall
Ray Stevenson
as Murlaugh
Patrick Fugit
as Evra the Snake Boy
Willem Dafoe
as Gavner Purl
Salma Hayek
as Madame Truska
Colleen Camp
as Mrs. Shan
Orlando Jones
as Alexander Ribs
Frankie Faison
as Rhamus Twobellies
Kristen Schaal
as Gertha Teeth
Patrick Breen
as Mr. Kersey
Jane Krakowski
as Corma Limbs
Drew Varick
as Loaf Head
John Crawford
as Audience Member
Ted Manson
as Policeman
Ann McKenzie
as Woman From Town
Beau Holden
as Trucker
Patrick Fulton
as Kid Passing By
Tyler Chetta
as Kid in Hallway
Shaun Grant
as Vampaneze
Trey Burvant
as Singing Father
Beth Burvant
as Singing Mother
Evelyn Burvant
as Singing Kid
Anna Dawson
as Singing Kid
Jonathan Nosan
as Hans Hands
Madeline Gaudet
as Shrieking Student
Erika Jensen
as Rain Girl
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Critic Reviews for Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

All Critics (139) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (86)

Audience Reviews for Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

  • Apr 03, 2014
    Forget the Vampire -- the casting director clearly needs assistance! Dumb and poorly cast, but the film had a strange, Baroque charm that made it mildly entertaining nevertheless. And I can't help feeling that pitting the "vampires" against the "vampanese" (i.e., the violent vamps) was obliquely racist.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 14, 2013
    It's "Twilight" for boys, and apparently that's still not cool enough for boys, because this film unfortunately fell short at the box office. Granted, it didn't fall that short, but they were hoping that this would be the more teen boyish answer to "Twilight" so much that they got the brother of the director of "New Moon" to direct this, and released it a couple of weeks before "New Moon", just in time for Halloween. Jeez, from the sounds of it, this really should have done well at the box office, but alas, those teenaged boys were having to save their movie money to take their girlfriends to "New Moon", and besides, unless he's a blithering idiot playing off of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly isn't especially marketable to the kids. Shoot, it's not like the young'uns were going to be sold on Willem Dafoe, because his celebrity is starting to slip, and they certainly weren't going to be sold on Patrick Fugit, because the boy is so destined to be, well, "almost famous" that this was his first major role since his first one, nine years ago, and they ended up sticking him in a supporting role and under a bunch of Lizard Boy makeup, and still fell short at the box office. Man, William Miller just cannot catch a break, but hey, I guess he's doing better than Chris Massoglia, who tried to go the way of Fugit and leap right into his first lead role at a very young age, only to go on to do a deleted scene in "Charlie St. Cloud" and nothing else. Shoot, he's such a big Christian, maybe God is punishing him for selling his soul to a vampire film, or, more likely, Hollywood is punishing him for being a Republican, or, most likely, the Patrick Fugit route is simply a doomed one, because Fugit is barely doing anything, and his first lead role was in one of the greatest doggone films ever made, ever, something that this film is decidedly not. Don't get me wrong, this film is decent, or at least a whole lot better than "New Moon", but it doesn't "sink its teeth" too deep, being held back, partially by natural shortcomings. Sorry for this vampire-themed pun, but this very young adult type of fluff piece was never to have all that much "teeth", being promising and all in plenty of places, but sometimes formulaic, as well as consistently thin in dramatic weight to one degree or another, which isn't to say that you can solely blame conceptual shortcomings for preventing this film from being fleshed out all that much. Pacing problems in storytelling also play a part in thinning out depth and kick, particularly when exposition goes hurried along, sometimes so forcibly that the film crowbars in a quick piece of exposition to keep things tight, which is ironic, because when the film is forcing stuff in, it's usually dragging its narrative out with much too much material to keep up with. As thin as the film's story may be in plenty of places, at least in concept, it juggles many an expendable subplot and many a near-overcomplicated core plot element, and that's respectable, I guess, but too much for this effort to handle without focal unevenness rearing its ugly head into things as the film struggles to find a direction, many of which are either unnecessary or don't really gel with the other paths as well as they should on a tonal level. The film is fluffy at times and, well, somewhat heavy at other times, and such a structure doesn't consistently work, resulting in yet more inconsistency, in this case with tone, which would perhpas be messier if this film wasn't rather unfortunately consistent with having some form of cheesiness. Sure, the film has some weight to it, but quite frankly, it's still something of a kiddy movie, and that's reflected in the story concept, as I said earlier, and it's also reflected in the questionable beats within Paul Weitz's and Brian Helgeland's script, which may not shy away from profanity and disturbances, both spoken and visualized, but still gets to be a bit too fluffy with its humor and dialogue, while watering down what intrigue there is through some histrionics and subtlety issues. This is a pretty superficial film in a lot of ways, and sure, it compensates for its problems with entertainment value, but it perhaps could have been more, for although potential is limited, it still stands, and goes betrayed enough by uneven and cheesy writing for an underwhelming, maybe even kind of forgettable final product to be formed. That being said, while this film could have held a firmer bite, I can't say that I was ever shaken too loose from its jaws, being held by plenty of factors, including artistic ones. If nothing else, the film is a visual achievement, with J. Michael Muro delivering on cinematography that stands to be more dazzling, but remains impressive, with handsomely sparse lighting whose more colorful notes find their lushness really crisply played up, thus making the photography colorful to the tone of this colorfully bleak flick, much like Stephen Trek's often very Danny Elfman-esque score. If nothing else goes complimented by Muro's photography, it is, of course, the other lovely elements of a visual style that is very Tim Burton-esque, being not necessarily as lavish as the Tim Burton film this effort clearly wants to evoke thoughts of, but with a world that art directors Seth Reed and Domenic Silvestri, and a pretty decent visual effects team, bring to life with reasonably convincing, maybe even immersive intricacies that in turn bring this film to life in plenty of ways. This is a pretty fluffy flick that relies pretty heavily on its style, and make no mistake, stylistically, this film could very well excel, with lively artistic value and clever technical value that do more than you might think in carrying this effort, but cannot keep things going alone. No, in order to really keep you engaged, this film needs to deliver on substance, and it does just that just fine, as Darren Shan's story concept, while limited in both bite and uniqueness, has its share of refreshing elements behind colorfully layered plotting that is, in fact, well-executed on the whole, both by a script by Paul Weitz and Brian Helgeland that is generally clever and colorful in its sometimes cheesy and superficial humor and characterization, as well as by a directorial performance by Weitz that may not be too assured, but has a style about it that keeps momentum going enough to establish intrigue, or at least liveliness. Really, if this film has nothing else going for it, it's entertainment value, and while it could have had more, that isn't too shabby of a thing to have when dealing with a flick of this nature, as keeps things kind of fun, enough so to draw your attention to what more engaging attributes there are to the substance, though perhaps not as much as the cast, which could very well rank among the strongest aspects of the final product. Young leading man Chris Massoglia has been gaining a mixed reception, and really, I don't see it, because I thought that he wasn't too shabby in his convincing portrayal of an average young man who finds himself caught in an extraordinary situation, though, to be honest, it's the other players who really liven things up, whether we're dealing with the memorably charming portrayals of the "freaks", or faced with particularly engaging higher-ups in the supporting cast, such as Josh Hutcherson, - who is convincing as a troubled lad who comes to gain the opportunity to do evil deeds for a better life - Michael Cerveris, - who is deliciously effective as the flamboyant antagonist - and a show-stealing John C. Reilly, whose effortlessly thorough charisma and convincingness as a sharply wise, but flawed mentor makes the particularly memorable Larten Crepsley role yet another testament to Reilly's being an underappreciated talent. There's really not a whole lot to go into with this film, because it's ultimately too thin in consequence to be all that worth remembering on the whole, but what it does well it does quite well, and enough so to, at the very least, inspire entertainment value that keeps you going through and through, in spite of some hiccups. In closing, - seeing as how this film isn't like to get a sequel - conceptual thinness in weight is emphasized enough by unevenness in pacing, focus and tone, as well as by cheesiness that makes the lighter aspects much too fluffy and potentially heavier aspects pretty superficial, for the final product to fall short of potential that was never to be that substantial, but not so short that a lovely visual style, - brought to life by sharp cinematography, intricate art direction and lively visual effects - as well as a somewhat refreshing and generally intriguing story concept, - brought to life by clever writing moments, effective directorial moments and across-the-board enjoyable performances - aren't enough to make "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" a thoroughly entertaining and ultimately decent, if somewhat forgettable supernatural affair for the whole family. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 22, 2011
    A film interesting, fun and with a story that is entertaining.
    Rodrigo R Super Reviewer
  • Nov 14, 2011
    Bad acting in this unfaithful unfantastic adaption to a fantastic book. John C Reilly gives a good performance but even he cant save the film from its unconsistent pacing.
    Directors C Super Reviewer

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