Say what you like about Lesbian Vampire Killers, but you can't accuse it of false advertising. Judging by the title and the poster, you might assume it was a laddish horror-comedy about two mates (Gavin and Stacey's James Corden and Mathew Horne) who guzzle lots of beer, splutter lots of rude words, and leer at lots of underdressed young women, most of whom are Sapphic blood-suckers – and that's precisely what it is. You won't be too impressed if you're not a Nuts magazine subscriber, but at least you won't be able to leave the cinema muttering, "Well, I thought a film called Lesbian Vampire Killers was going to be a bit more sophisticated than that ..."
The fairest comment to make is that although Lesbian Vampire Killers delivers everything the poster promises, it doesn't deliver one iota more. Unlike Shaun of the Dead – a comparison it's not going to be able to avoid – this blokey post-pub lark has nothing in the way of subtext, plot twists or character development. Horne and Corden are the same clueless slackers at the end of the film as they are at the start; the village they visit on a hiking trip is populated by the same mutton-chopped yokels as every other comedy about city slickers in the countryside; and there's not even a token attempt to subvert the Hammer fantasy of libidinous undead Page 3 girls who are there to be gawped at, and then impaled. The Two Ronnies would have been more politically correct.
The film's one joke is that Corden is cowardly enough and honest enough to react to the supernatural in a way that many of us would in real life, but people in films rarely do. "I know something really wrong is happening here," he bleats, as Horne chivvies him out of a cottage deep in an accursed forest, "but is there any chance we can just ignore it?"
Corden's blustery line-readings are enough to raise a few laughs, but his characterisation is as skimpy as the vampires' dresses. With its comic-strip captions and whooshing sound effects, LVK doesn't have enough reality to counterpoint the horror, so, in contrast with Shaun of the Dead, there's no reason to care about anyone in it. However many stakes there are, nothing's at stake.
This week's other entry in the burgeoning fat-man-as-action-hero sub-genre, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, is the biggest hit at this year's American box office. It's co-written by its star, Kevin James, a sitcom veteran who's best known in Britain for co-starring with Will Smith in Hitch and with Adam Sandler (this film's producer) in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. His character, Paul Blart, is a rotund shopping mall security guard with a moustache and a clip-on tie who roves around on a two-wheeled electric scooter, imagining that he's on the front line of law enforcement. In another decade, there might have been a smidgen of satire about privatised public spaces and overzealous, undertrained little Hitlers, but there's nothing so countercultural in PB:MC, a comedy which boasts wall-to-wall product placement for some of America's grimmest chainstores and restaurant franchises. Appropriately, the story is as uninspired as the mall it's set in, while the perky love interest and the sneering rival are as generic as any chainstore.
The fact that it's so conservative could account for the film's huge popularity, although James's likeable, big-hearted performance is a factor, too. Once the film's Die Hard scenario gets going, and Blart has to save the mall from a gang of crooks, the jokes get much better, and James proves to be a nimble physical comedian for a man of such Homer Simpsonian proportions. Free of the gross-out gags and misanthropy that drag down most films produced by Adam Sandler, PB:MC should keep children entertained, but those of us who are old enough to remember the 1980s may wonder whether the world really needs another wave of criminals who conduct their heists on skateboards and BMX bikes.
Have your say on 'Lesbian 'Vampire Killers' at independent.co.uk/filmforum. We'll print a selection of readers' responses in Wednesday's paper.
Also Showing: 22/03/2009
Il Divo (117 mins, 15)
Giulio Andreotti was Italy's prime minister for seven terms between 1972 and 1992, despite rumours that he arranged for his enemies to sleep with the fishes. This stylised, surreal drama covers his final years in office, with Toni Servillo (inset below) playing Andreotti as a hunched, inscrutable goblin. But the blizzard of names and dates will be incomprehensible to anyone who isn't already well versed in Italian political history, and fairly perplexing to anyone who is.
The Age of Stupid (92 mins, 1A)
This low-budget British eco-doc cuts between case studies of the causes and effects of global warming. It's a terrifying wake-up call, but it could do without the gimmicky sci-fi framework, which has Pete Postlethwaite in a cheaply computer-generated future, looking back at the early 21st century and asking why we ran so carelessly into the abyss.
Flash of Genius (115 mins, 1A)
Indie drama based on the true story of a Detroit engineering lecturer (Greg Kinnear) whose windscreen-wiper mechanism is stolen by Ford, and who sacrifices years of his life and much of his sanity struggling for legal restitution.
Diminished Capacity (92 mins, 15)
Studiedly quirky Little Miss Sunshine-wannabe. Matthew Broderick plays a Chicago newspaper editor who has amnesia due to concussion, while his small-town uncle, Alan Alda, has amnesia due to old age.
Bottle Shock (108 mins, 1A)
Alan Rickman is underused in this tedious comedy about the Napa Valley wine business in the 1970s.