On one hand, this is an imaginative and exciting story, based on a popular series of children’s books. On the other hand, the subject matter is vampires. Even though these vampires are friendly and only suck blood out of cows, several children in the audience at the screening I attended were visibly upset. One 5-year-old burst into tears, saying, “You told me this was going to be a funny movie!” So parents should be very cautious about taking younger children to this movie.
Jonathan Lipnicki (of “Stuart Little”) plays Tony, a boy who is not very happy about moving from San Diego to Scotland, so his father can build a golf course for Lord McAshton (John Wood). Every night, Tony has creepy dreams about vampires, but no one believes him when he says that they are real. His teacher punishes him and classmates bully him.
One night, a real vampire flies into Tony’s room. This vampire is Rudolph, and he is about Tony’s age — or he would be, if he had not been a vampire for 300 years. Rudolph tells Tony that the vampires want to be human again, and that they can do it if they can escape the vampire killer who is after them, and if they can find the missing amulet before the comet arrives.
Tony and Rudolph become friends. Tony helps Rudolph find cows so he can suck their blood. (Rudolph explains, “We want to become human, not eat them for dinner!”) Tony doesn’t have a coffin handy when he wants Rudolph to sleep over, but his footlocker works just as well. And it turns out that a vampire is a handy friend when it comes to dealing with school bullies.
All turns out fine, but there are some grisly adventures along the way. The production design is outstanding, and Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige as Rudolph’s vampire parents are first rate.
Parents should know that this movie includes dead bodies, stakes through the heart, a child locked in a crypt, a dead mouse, vampire cows, references to the undead, and a generally ghoulish atmosphere. Some kids, especially fans of the book, will love this stuff, but others will be upset by it. In addition, there are characters in peril, schoolyard fights with bullies, and a brief adult fistfight.
Families who see this movie should talk about what we do when we get scared. Tony pretends to be a vampire, one way to be less scared by them. And once he sees that Rudolph needs his help, he is not afraid anymore. Talk to kids about the bullies at school, and any experiences they may have had with bullies. Do they think that Tony becomes a bully in the movie?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the creepy but silly adventures of Scooby-Doo, like “Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers.”