"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" looked like the perfect film to catch around this Halloween season; but the film's promising plot is dragged down by stiff Hayden Christensen-like performances, bad direction, and some twists that are downright dumb. The cold opening of the movie is done perfectly, introducing our protangonist Darren Shan, played by newcomer Chris Massoglia, showing his funeral-where he's actually playing video games in his coffin. The opening draws you in but when it cuts to the lame and overly-long credit sequence, I already had a bad feeling.
The premise plays out as your basic kid-dragged-into-something-bigger-than-him archetype, with the cracks of the story filled in by the flavor of the day vampire garbage, and various grotesque circus freaks. Basically, while Darren and his troubled best friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) are bitching about how boring and predictable life is, a limo drives up and gives them a brochure for a one night only freak show. Happens all the time. Anyway, Like any self-respecting teenage boys, they sneak out at night and go to the show. After a bizarre series of events our young lads end up on either side of two warring vampire clans. The vampires merely sedate their prey, while the vampeneze kill their victims. Why they can't just live in harmony is beyond me. On the good side we have, Larton Crepsley, played by a hugely miscast John C. Reilly, and Darren, who, after some freaky circumstances, is made half vampire by Crepsley. His friend Steve is drawn to the dark side, and vampire action/humor ensues.
"The Vampires Assistant," struggles to find its tone throughout the entire film. While there are some yuk-yuk moments it isn't consistently funny enough to be a comedy; which is almost a shame considering Reilly's considerable comedic chops. On the other end of the spectrum, it's not a good action movie either. Not that much happens, and the special effects are not all that special. In the end it just feels like an uneven, miscast, botched opportunity. It's watchable, but not worth seeing.