"There's very little lifeblood flowing through this."
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant suffers from a little issue I like to call the Jumper Syndrome. That's when you get a bunch of people in a room who plan out a franchise, a full three to four films' worth, forgetting to actually make one good movie to start with. They are like folks merrily planning that long-awaited addition to their house ... that they currently only rent.
Sadly, the completely unformed (and unresolved) story is not the only problem with Vampire's Assistant. That's right, there's more! John C. Reilly's character was written completely flat. Every single laugh is in the trailer. The entire premise is based upon the tired old "miscommunication" trope. You know the one, where friend A gets mad at friend B even though they couldn't have known friend B was only trying to help them all along! The title is also a lie: the guy never really assists the vampire in any meaningful way. But really, all of this could have been forgiven if the movie wasn't so boring. Nothing happens throughout the 108 minutes of "action." Oh, there are a few inconsequential CGI fight scenes -- but I don't count those as a "happening." You shouldn't either.
The story of Vampire's Assistant is the story of John C. Reilly's Crepsley, a vampire in the longest running freakshow, the Cirque du Freak. Crepsley comes to a sleepy little town inhabited by best pals Steve (Josh Hutcherson) and Darren (Chris Massoglia). Through a series of bad decisions, the boys both attempt to become vampires. But I won't spoil that for you, the joy being in the journey and all.
Both Hutcherson and Massoglia are good enough for the film to work, so we can't really pin the blame on them. They are younger actors that could have a bright future based on how well they did with the lifeless material. Patrick Fugit also makes a fun appearance as a snakeskinned fellow.
Here's the oddest thing about The Vampire's Assistant: It was written by guys with legitimate screen credits. Director and co-writer Paul Weitz helped write In Good Company and About a Boy. He's the brother of Chris Weitz, the director of New Moon. The other writer, Brian Helgeland, adapted Mystic River, L.A. Confidential, and directed and wrote the largely under-appreciated A Knight's Tale. These are clearly guys that have talent. So what happened? Why did the wheels fall off here? I suppose that's a mystery for future generations of Vampire's Assistant scholars.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant could have been good. It had the elements of excellence somewhere in the story. But nothing happens throughout, the fighting is gimmicky, and the plot is based upon a complete cliche. John C. Reilly doesn't impress and the movie never really goes anywhere. A very specific audience might find some fun here -- the under 15 crowd -- but for the people who have seen films that make bold and interesting choices, there's very little lifeblood flowing through this one.