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The Little Vampire

Starring Jonathan Lipnicki
Screenplay by Nicholas Waller, Karey Kirkpatrick, Larry Wilson
Based on the books by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg
Directed by Uli Edel

IN SHORT: Cute as a button. [Rated PG for some mild peril. 95 minutes]

Cranky's brother in law called up last week asking "where are the movies for my children????" The only one we had seen never opened outside of one theater in New York, so we didn't have an answer. Then.

Now, we've got that adorable warm blooded moppet from Jerry Maguire, Jonathan Lipnicki starring as an adorable warm blooded moppett named Tony Thompson, living in Scotland and having scary dreams about a family of vampires. We understand that Scotland isn't an easy place for an American kidlet to grow up in; Not only do the local kidlets beat up on poor Tony at school, everybody in Scotland speaks in a thoroughly unintelligible accent. <g> And while this poor li'l kidlet knows that he's only dreaming . . . he isn't.

Dottie and Bob (Pamela Gidley and Tommy Hinkley) think their son is showing some normal nine year old obsessive behavior triggered by the relocation -- dad moved the family from San Diego to Scotland to oversee construction of a golf course on the estate of Lord McAshton (John Wood) -- but Tony takes it a bit far. He cuts fake fangs out of construction paper. He wears a cape and practices vampire moves. He tells vampire tales in class. And because of all this fakery, a passing vampire boy flies in the window, too hungry for blood and too scared of a vampire hunter to do anything but look for safety with one of his own. Tony, obviously, is not one of the clan, but Rudolph (Rollo Weeks), also "about" 9 years old, and Tony form a fast friendship.

We learn that somewhere nearby lives Rudolph's family, all vampires cursed 300 years before. In scenes reminiscent of the Superman series, Rudolph takes Tony flying and their friendship is sealed. With Tony's help, the family gets fed -- not on humans, though the substitute helps set up a pretty funny gag at the film's climax -- and learns their true history. Somewhere nearby is hidden the Stone of Azimon which, when placed in an amulet worn by daddy vampire Frederick Sackville Baggs (Richard E. Grant), can restore their humanity. Also on the estate is the vampire hunter Rookery (Jim Carter) who has a similar amulet that can destroy the vampires. Tony, who suddenly exhibits mild visionary powers, will help his newfound friends and go where they cannot. There's no gore to disgust and only one "bite" to seal the ties to vampire lore. What director Uli Edel has done is turn out a movie that has the feel of a fairy tale, despite headliner Lipnicki's inability to act. Sorry folks, all he can do is react, which is all that is required here. It doesn't hurt the movie and he's got a lot of time ahead of him to learn how to do the work.

The Little Vampire is just spooky enough to scare the very little. It is fast moving enough that adults won't feel their heads falling off their shoulders. It is a kid's movie, flat out. An intelligent, well written, strongly moral valued 90+ minutes where you can safely park your guessing pre-teen and younger kidlets, and head to the theater next door to see The Exorcist for the umpteenth time. We don't put dollar sign ratings on kidlet flicks since most of y'all will rent 'em as necessary though, if you're wondering if we'd lug our single digits to this movie (were we to have 'em), the answer is "yes".

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