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New Line Home Cinema presents
The Little Vampire (2000)

Rudolph: I've sat in trees and watched mortals play this game. What is it?
Tony: It's a Nintendo - Duh!
Rudolph: Nintendo Duh. Can I play with this Nintendo Duh?

- Rollo Weeks, Jonathan Lipnicki

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: March 15, 2001

Stars: Jonathan Lipnicki, Rollo Weeks
Other Stars: Richard E. Grant, Jim Carter, Alice Krige, Pamela Gidley, Tommy Hinkley, Anna Popplewell, Dean Cook, John Wood
Director: Uli Edel

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild peril)
Run Time: 01h:34m:56s
Release Date: March 06, 2001
UPC: 794043516320
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The Little Vampire is based on a popular series of children's book by author Angela Sommer-Bodenburg. The story is set in the castles and hills of Scotland, where young American Tony Thompson (Jonathan Lipnicki) has just moved with his parents. Right away, he feels like an outsider. Kids beat him up, his dad is always busy, and even his teacher humiliates him in front of the class (that guy would have a line of parents outside of his door a mile long if he was that mean in real life). To top it all off, he starts having nightmares about a clan of vampires with a magic amulet.

Things begin to look up when one night a bat flies into Tony's window and turns into a nine year old boy (309, that is) named Rudolph (Rollo Weeks). The two become fast friends. Rudolph takes Tony flying, while Tony teaches Rudolph the basics of being a kid (like saying "Dude", "Duh", and the Lipnicki trademarked Yes! while pumping a small fist in the air). Once Tony meets Rudolph's vampiric parents, he discovers a bit more than he expected. It seems the dreams were real, and Rudolph and his family (who incidentally prefer cow blood to the human variety) need to recover the lost amulet so the can lift the curse of vampirism and become human. And of course, only little Tony has the psychic ability to locate the stone.

I'll preface my criticism of the film by saying that kids under 10 will likely really enjoy this. The fantasy elements should be quite appealing, and little ones can't seem to resist those "kid saves the day" tales. However, parents are usually forced to sit through these things too, and I don't know if this is one you'd necessarily want to have to pop into the player every day during playtime.

The problems certainly aren't with the cast. The preternaturally 5-year-old Jonathan Lipnicki conveys a reasonable amount of emotion for a child actor. Newcomer Rollo Weeks is actually quite good, but he doesn't have a lot to do. The adult cast features some notables like Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige (the Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact), and they seem to be having fun vamping it up. The only real sour spot is the painfully unfunny vampire hunter played by Jim Carter. He seems to have ripped a page right out of the "Chris Elliot as Snow Plow Man" acting book (from the makers of Snow Day).

No, it's the narrative that's the problem. There's just too much going on! The whole amulet recovery element is a bit convoluted and confusing, especially the elements that feature the vampire hunter. Also the flashes of psychic power from Tony aren't really explained in any way. Elements are introduced and forgotten quickly. For example, one of Rudolph's vampire brothers makes a stink about how humans should fear vampires and yells at his parents. But nothing more is made of it. Another example is that, for some reason, Rudolph's sister falls in love with Tony and gives him a magical dead mouse, which figures largely and stupidly into the climax of the film. Also, despite all the different plot threads, long sections drag by at a snail's pace, providing opportunities for Junior to squirm in his seat.

Of course, I'm not the target audience for this, and kids likely wouldn't notice the problems with the film. There are certainly a lot of things they will enjoy, including the flying adventures of Rudolph and Tony (a scene where the two fly up to jump on a blimp is quite imaginative), and the usual "scare the bullies" subplot. Plus, I can't give a wholly negative review to a film that features flying vampire cows.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: This transfer definitely isn't up to the usual New Line standard, but it still looks pretty good. Colors contrast is excellent in the daytime scenes, but considering this is a story about vampires, most of the film takes place at night. Unfortunately, black level is a bit of a problem, probably because both a widescreen and a full screen version have been squeezed onto one side of the disc. Blacks don't look rich and deep, they look somewhat muddled. Also, some of the nighttime flying scenes exhibit a surprising amount a film grain, to the point where you can almost see individual pixels. Other than that, I noticed just a tiny bit or digital artifacting on a complicated plaid shirt. No other problems were obvious.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This is a pretty basic 5.1 mix. In fact, I sampled both the 5.1 and 2.0 DD tracks, and I couldn't find any really significant differences. The mix is very heavily concentrated into the front soundstage, with the surrounds just picking up the score. Dialogue is usually very clear, but at times it seemed to have been obviously looped, betraying the ADR work done. There are a couple panning effects across the front soundstage, as well as some directional effects, but overall, this is basically a vanilla transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: none

Extra Extras:
  1. 3 interactive games
  2. Vampire and monster jokes
  3. Recipes
Extras Review: Aside from the trailer and cast fimographies, this disc includes a number of kid-friendly extras. There are about 50 monster jokes; most of them very old and very dumb. The three interactive games (Graveyard Golf, Find the Amulet, Mix and Match) border on mind-numbingly simple, but the young'uns will probably give them a few tries. Finally, there are four recipes for spooky snacks of the "kids, ask mom or dad for help" variety.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Despite the problems I had with the film, I can easily see loving it if I were a young'un. Kids will eat up the fantasy elements such as the flying, and the storyline is complex and entertaining enough to keep parents from gouging their eyes out. A few scenes may be a bit intense for children under 5, but overall I think this would be a good choice for kid-friendly viewing.


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