Rated PG - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 10/27/00

Although 10-year-old Jonathan Lipnicki is achieving moderate fame as a child star, having appeared on The Jeff Foxworthy Show and in films like Jerry Maguire and Stuart Little, I'd say his cuteness heavily outweighs his talent as an actor. His meager ability is one factor that makes The Little Vampire a less engaging film than it could and should be; another is the movie's generally dark tone, which, to be fair, could be expected given the subject. Shot in Scotland, The Little Vampire is the product of German director Ulrich Edel, who won the Bavarian Film Award for Last Exit to Brooklyn, and writers Karey Kirkpatrick and Larry Wilson, who based their text on the series of novels by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg. The film contains some interesting costume designs by James Acheson and make-up by Katja Reinert, but the pace is slow and the story somewhat muddled.

Lipnicki plays Tony Thompson, the son of a land developer (Tommy Hinkley) who has recently moved his family to Scotland to build a golf course and tourist resort for the wealthy Lord McAshton (John Wood). Unaccepted by the kids at school and troubled by nightmares, Tony is unhappy in his new surroundings, and he's really freaked out when he is visited one night by a vampire his own age named Rudolf (Rollo Weeks). But after overcoming some initial mutual distrust, the two boys form a friendship and Jonathan learns that vampires don't really like human blood (what?) because they want to be human. So they make do on cow's blood. However, they are generally antagonistic toward the living, because mortals have an annoying habit of piercing them through the heart with wooden stakes all the time.

But as it turns out, vampire-killing humans and the perils of E. coli are the least of Rudolf's family's troubles. It seems that there is a comet approaching the moon which, when it reaches full conjuction, can turn all the vampires human again. But it will only work if they have a magic amulet containing a special stone, and this important piece of jewelry was misplaced centuries ago by a pair of vampire lovers on the run (Elizabeth Berrington, Jake D'Arcy). Rudolf explains this to Tony, who soon realizes that his dreams may contain the information they need to find the amulet. Teaming up to figure it out, they must overcome the animosity Rudolf's family feels for Tony and his kind, and also dodge the murderous attempts of Lord McAshton and an inept vampire-killer he has hired (Jim Carter).

This film is a confusing mishmash of styles, including silly slapstick, unconvincing special effects, and some rather disturbing images for a film aimed at children. Lipnicki has learned how to make cute faces, but his delivery is formulaic and without emotion. In his one crying scene, his face shows no feeling, and his tears do not look so much like tears as Karo syrup. However, his supporting cast, including Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige as Rudolf's bloodsucking parents and Anna Popplewell as his lovestruck little sister, are adequate. ***

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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