A Kiddie Comedy You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 27, 2000
Not 15 minutes into a recent Saturday morning screening of "The
Little Vampire," an utterly charming if edgy new film based on German
author Angela Sommer-Bodenburg's series of children's books about the
friendship between a 9-year-old boy and a juvenile vampire, a
high-pitched voice in the audience cried out, "Mommy, I'm scared!"
Pretty understandable, frankly, coming as it did at the point when our
pint-size hero has just discovered a pale-skinned bat-boy with fangs
and glowing eyes hiding in his bedroom.
You had me at "I want to suck your blood": Jonathan Lipnicki from "Jerry Maguire" gets to know vampire Richard E. Grant.
(New Line Cinema)
"Casper the Friendly Vampire" this is not.
Tony, a shy, friendless American child living in Scotland, has just
met Rudolph, a 300-year-old blood-sucker who just happens to be a
member of the pre-adolescent undead. After an awkward moment or
two Rudolph thinks Tony's going to drive a stake through his heart and
Tony thinks Rudolph's going to eat him
the two become fast friends, but only after Tony convinces Rudolph
that he doesn't want to kill him. (How can he? He's dead already.)
Rudolph only has to convince Tony that he prefers cow's blood to
human's and a quick visit to a neighboring cattle barn proves this. "I
think I'm gonna hurl," says Tony about his new playmate's hobby.
Two words of warning: "The Little Vampire" is not for the very
young. The Harry Potterish plot, involving an attempt to retrieve a
magical amulet that will break an ancient spell and turn Rudolph and
his cursed vampire family back into human beings, is complicated, and
there are numerous scenes involving gross rodents, a spooky vampire
hunter (Jim Carter) and the prospect of a child being buried alive.
Scarier still to some adults will be the presence of Jonathan
Lipnicki, the "Jerry Maguire" kid, as Tony. The bespectacled,
spiky-haired tot is one of those professional children who flirt with
the boundary between cute and too cute, and to some cynics he has
already crossed that line.
Adorable British newcomer Rollo Weeks as Rudolph, on the other
hand, also has tweakable cheeks, but his unfamiliarity to American
audiences keeps him from becoming too annoying too quickly.
For mature kids and their parents, "The Little Vampire" is very
funny in a way reminiscent of "Babe: Pig in the City," the darkly
entertaining sequel to the popular pig flick that was more of a hit
with critics than with audiences. No surprise considering that
"Vampire's" director, Uli Edel, is probably best known for the
controversial (and definitely not for children) "Last Exit to
Brooklyn" or that its writers have worked on such smart fare as the
recent "Chicken Run" (Karey Kirkpatrick) and the 1988 "Beetlejuice"
Kids being kids, of course, there will be one huge, fat laugh at
the sight of flying, red-eyed vampire cows dive-bombing the bad guy
with a load of fresh poop, while grown-up custodians can flatter
themselves at getting references to such classic films as "To Have and
Have Not": "If you ever need me, just whistle," says Rudolph's little
vampire sister (Anna Popplewell) when she develops a wee crush on
Tony. "You know how to whistle, don't you?"
(Thank God she didn't add "You just put your lips together and . .
. blow." I wouldn't be able to live with the image of a prepubescent
The rest of the top-notch cast includes the wonderful Richard E.
Grant ("Withnail and I") and Alice Krige ("Chariots of Fire") as
Rudolph's comically morose father and mother, and the veteran British
stage and film actor John Wood as pompous Lord Mcashton, a Scottish
nobleman with a few skeletons in his own closet.
Halfway through the movie, while all around him were laughing in
glee, my pipsqueak critic neighbor piped up again: "Mommy, I don't
like this movie!" And later still, "Mommy, this movie's not funny!'"
"Yes it is," hissed mom sharply.
Sorry, kid, but I'm siding with the old lady.
"The Little Vampire" (PG, 95 minutes) Contains cow poop, icky rodents,
punching and implied blood-sucking.