This animated feature seems very thin gruel compared with the best in either Pixar and Dreamworks or more handcrafted and original art house animation like The Breadwinner (also out this week) and My Life As A Courgette. A remake of the 2000 live action film, it turns the usual vampire dynamics on their head. The villain here is the human, the curmudgeonly vampire hunter Rookery (voiced in vigorous fashion by the instantly recognisable Jim Carter). The vampires themselves are portrayed as gentle, reclusive sorts. They may talk occasionally about sucking blood but they seldom seem to do much of it.
We are in a familiar world of gothic castles and country inns run by lederhosen-wearing publicans. An American family is on holiday in Europe. The parents have been tell their pesky little son Tony that vampires don’t exist. “No more ‘V’ word,” even as he sees members of a vampire family flying by outside the car window. Tony is roughly the same age as one of the vampires, Rudolph, who is celebrating his 13th birthday for the 300th time – one of the downsides of being undead. The two become best friends. Tony helps Rudolph and his family avoid being locked in and exterminated by Rookery. There is a lot of flying around and hanging upside down from rooftops.
Given that the vampires seem so benign anyway, it’s not at all clear why Rookery is so determined to wipe them out. Some of the fang-toothed relatives express a brief desire to bite Tony but Rudolph is able to convince them the young American is really their best friend.
The Little Vampire was German-made, Dutch-financed and has an American lead. A flying cow appears at one stage. It’s perfectly passable half-term entertainment but has no bite or distinctiveness whatsoever. Its reported budget was around $6m (£4.5m) – healthy for a European film but at least $170m less than will be spent on the average Pixar film. Audiences spoiled by the glories of Inside Out, Coco et al. and looking forward to Incredibles 2 later in the summer might feel just a bit short-changed by such anaemic and bloodless entertainment.
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