The Little Vampire

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Nancy Churnin / The Dallas Morning News

Pity the poor vampire, sleeping in an acrid coffin by day, rising up at night in the same tacky black and, we presume, unwashed cape through all of eternity, doomed to roam the world in search of blood.

I mean, really, after all these years, you would think one of the brighter members of the clan would have come up with a delivery service.

And if that's not bad enough, they've been trivialized in one of the silliest movies being marketed to kids this year.

The Little Vampire, which could be subtitled My Best Friend Is a Vampire, tells the story of a lonely American boy in Scotland, Tony (Jonathan Lipnicki), dressed in a vampire costume, who is mistaken for the real thing by a hungry, but hardly observant, vampire boy, Rudolph (Rollo Weeks).

Shortly after Rudolph transforms from bat to boy before Tony's delighted eyes, Rudolph realizes his mistake, but is too weak to fly away. Tony finds him blood (from a cow), offers him his trunk of toys to sleep in (where Rudolph can master the intricacies of GameBoy) and sets out to save Rudolph's family, who are being hunted by Rookery (Jim Carter), the merciless Inspector Javert of the dark side.

Luckily for the vampires, busy little Tony doesn't get an awful lot of homework and his parents don't keep a close eye on his whereabouts.

The story, adapted by Karey Kirkpatrick and Larry Wilson from the novels by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, has its share of charming moments – most of them due to the appealing actors and, especially, Jonathan Lipnicki (who was also pretty cute in Jerry Maguire and Stuart Little).

Director Uli Edel is at his best when the film plays upon the theme of kids reaching across the barriers of prejudice to find enduring friendship. The movie falters when it gets mean, as when Tony uses Rudolph's help to wreak revenge on two school bullies.

But even the good moments get sucked into the bizarre black holes of the story. OK, the vampires are under a curse that rendered them blood-drinking immortals, but who rendered the curse and why? To break the curse, they must find a certain amulet and hold it up to a comet that comes once every 300 years. Why would that help?

Still, it's almost worth the ticket to see the scene where the red-eyed cows – rendered vampires by the vampires who drink their blood – literally fly in a rage.