Early in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, Larten Crepsley, played by John C. Reilly, remarks of the crowd after his performance in the Cirque, "It's not easy to hold people's attention these days." I couldn't agree more, but his statement comes off with an air of pretentiousness, as if his poor performance wasn't to blame. My agreement with the quote carries the opposite feeling. It may not be easy to hold people's attention because it takes more than this mediocre effort to keep mine.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant follows Darren (Chris Massoglia) and Steve (Josh Hutcherson), two best friends who are in a tiff at the outset of the movie because Darren's parents think Steve is a bad influence on him. One day while standing outside of school, a flyer is tossed out of a car window inviting them to the Cirque du Freak, which they attend that night. Steve's obsession with vampires and Darren's obsession with spiders spark their fascination with the event, as both are featured in Crepsley's final performance of the night. Despite the highly concentrated venom in the Cirque spider, Darren steals it when the performance is over and hides in Crepsley's closet, where he witnesses Steve proposition Crepsley into turning him into a vampire, though he is refused the transformation because he has "bad blood." Later at school, the spider gets loose and bites Steve, putting him in the hospital under critical condition. Darren, suddenly morose from what he has caused, goes back to the Cirque and begs Crepsley for the antidote. He agrees to administer the counteragent under one condition. He will save Steve, but Darren must become his assistant. Darren reluctantly makes the deal and is turned into a type of human/vampire hybrid.
Crepsley is a vampire, but the term "vampire" in this movie carries a positive connotation. He, along with many others, have split off from the main group and have found a way to feed on human blood without having to kill the unsuspecting donor. An evil group of vampires known as the Vampinese do not like this and prefer the traditional ways, so they wage a war against the normal vampires, which is about as logical a reason to go to war as any I suppose. You see, there's a lot going on in this movie theoretically, but none of it circles around in any significant way. It introduces a plethora of characters who are criminally unexplored, establishes weak romantic relations and is devoid of any constant theme or message.
The Vampire's Assistant is a messy movie from top to bottom and shares many correlations with the Twilight series. Both are based off of books, both are about the struggle between good and bad vampires and both have dubbed themselves as "sagas," if the online ads for this movie are any indication. The similarities are too frank to not notice. However, Twilight was a better film. It wasn't good, but it wasn't this bad either. Twilight created something to latch onto, regardless of how cheesy its "love knows no boundaries" theme may have been. It at least tried, which is more than I can say for this. The Vampire's Assistant does nothing. It's neither an interesting action picture nor a sweet romance. It's just there.
The biggest difference between the two films is that this one takes itself less seriously and tries to throw in a healthy dose of humor to liven things up a bit, but it falls flat. It is entirely unfunny, sans one joke that plays off of established vampire lore, unless, that is, you're talking about unintentional laughs, because then it's hilarious.
The largest problem with the film is its incompetent structure and poor editing. There doesn't seem to be a flow in any area other than the most basic. It has no emotional or narrative structure and the continuity between character interactions and feelings seem almost non-existent. There are sequences that are seemingly thrown in at random that are inconsequential to the narrative arc and it quickly becomes distracting.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant isn't nearly as bad as its trailers make it out to be, which is faint praise because it's still a waste of time. You just won't hate yourself afterwards. The actors look physically bored, the plot is boring, the dialogue routine and the CGI is shoddy at best. There are 12 books that can be adapted from the Cirque du Freak series and based off the quality of this one, I doubt it has franchise potential, but if it does, God help us all.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant receives 1.5/5