starring John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Josh Hutcherson, Salma Hayek
screenplay by Paul Weitz and Brian Helgeland, based on the "Cirque du Freak" series of books by Darren Shan
directed by Paul Weitz
by Ian Pugh Maybe it's a cop-out to dismiss Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (hereafter The Vampire's Assistant) with that banal X-meets-Y idiom ("Twilight collides with The Golden Compass!"), but what other choice does one have? Three weeks before little brother Chris continues the Twilight saga, Paul Weitz gets the ball rolling on another vampire property based on another popular series of novels for young adults--and getting the ball rolling is more or less all he does. It's a handy parallel to Chris's own The Golden Compass in the sense that you're expected to immerse yourself in a fantasy world where no one does anything of particular note and nothing is accomplished. People are bitten, people are transformed, and the fulfillment of legends is foretold--but when the credits roll, can you say you've actually seen anything? In its own laborious foundation-laying, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone still managed a dreaded brush with Voldemort; what does The Vampire's Assistant have to offer? Willem Dafoe and Ken Watanabe under pounds of latex--made up to look like Vincent Price and Incredible Hulk nemesis The Leader, respectively--standing around, making bold pronouncements with the implied message that they'll have more to do if the powers-that-be greenlight the next instalment.