Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mom’s got a date with a Vampire – review

Directed by: Steve Boyum

Release date: 2000

Contains spoilers

This was one caught some time ago on the Disney Channel and the first worry is, of course, that it is Disney. I must admit to feeling akin to the Addams kids (Addams Family Values) where putting me in a room of Disney programming is tantamount to a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' protocol precluding torture.

That said they have done some good movies – despite the fact I refuse to admit it – and this one manages to contain a certain something despite a total lack of anything resembling blood. It is also fitting, I feel, to feature a film on the blog that itself stars Robert Carradine, after all dad John and half-brother David have appeared on the pages enough times!

We start off with a carriage heading towards a castle in a scene that is fairly stereotypical gothic vampire. The carriage stops and a man and woman get out. They are challenged by a hunter for he is Count Krelski (Karl Pruner) and this is the movie ‘the Revenge of Count Krelski’. We hear a phone and it is in the house where the movie is being watched. Meet the Hansens: Adam (Matt O’Leary) is watching the movie, along with younger brother Taylor (Myles Jeffrey) – who hides behind the couch with a cushion. The phone call was for older sister Chelsea (Laura Vandervoot).

Mom, Lynette (Caroline Rhea), comes in and turns the film off sending the older kids off to do homework. Rather than do that, Adam surfs the web looking for the website of vampire hunter Malachi Van Helsing (Robert Carradine), the story of whom is in the tabloid the ‘Weekly Secret’. I haven’t mentioned dad and, to be honest, with the film’s title it is clear he won’t be in the picture – as it is he is getting remarried and he and Lynette are divorced.

Adam discovers, at school the next day, that his friend might be able to get tickets for the band the Headless Horseman. His day then starts to pitch towards a bad day when he is asked to read out his history homework essay. He tries to bluff it by talking about Malachi Van Helsing – actually reading from the paper – but is caught out. Things improve when he discovers that they don’t have tickets but backstage passes. Unfortunately his teacher has phoned mom and he finds himself grounded – Chelsea gets grounded for laughing at him.

How are they going to get out on Saturday night? Adam has the solution – get mom a date – and there just happens to be personal adds in his tabloid. They email a guy called wolfsbane (who we see is the vampire, “all the good vampire names are taken… by teenagers” he later laments) and then manipulate mom to a supermarket in order that she and her date can ‘accidentally meet’.

Actually two men, integral to the story, enter the supermarket and one is vampire hunter Malachi Van Helsing who has worked out that his quarry will be there (by reasons unknown). Indeed the kids nearly approach him when mom bumps into Dimitri Denatos (Charles Shaughnessy), who truly is the vampire. A wee bit of flirting, and a lie about being a doctor, and they arrange to go to dinner. Now all would be well and good but Taylor spots Dimitri, as he leaves, discarding his shopping and transforming into a bat. It truly is a bit of crap bat syndrome but as it is the only time it occurs in the film it is forgiveable.

Taylor cannot talk about vampires – under mom’s orders – and so he leaves the house to save her from her date. Adam intervenes and has Dimitri do a ‘spoon test’ to prove he is not a vampire (the test being that a vampire cannot hang a spoon on his nose, which Dimitri then does. Just as well that Taylor is only 8). However, during this, Adam spots the fact that Dimitri has no reflection. He gets Taylor home and he and Chelsea go to save mom. Taylor ends up with Malachi Van Helsing.

It is then a standard family comedy with a vampire twist. The thing is it works and mostly due to acting. The kids are all good but it is the adults that, for me, steal the show. Caroline Rhea is great as mom Lynette and works as a foil to Shaughnessy’s Dimitri who acts in a sophisticated manner and despairs at Lynette’s more common (and public) wishes for the date. His face when taken to a rockabilly club is a picture.

Shaughnessy himself is excellent. He plays the role for laughs and yet manages to create a believable vampire – even if it is vamp-lite. Carradine does well but is, perhaps, a little curtailed in his role as his vampire hunter plays second fiddle to the kids. Again the hunter aspects are almost hunter-lite, after all this is a kid’s film and blood is not on the menu.

The lore we do get, as well as no reflections, is the fact that vampires have some serious eye-mojo but the resultant trance can be broken by true love. Vampires sleep in coffins, can walk up walls, can use that eye-mojo to repel attackers and are very, very strong.

As well as the lore we get cross-references aplenty. Obviously Malachi Van Helsing is named for Abraham from Dracula and the restaurant for the date is called Renfields, which references the same. The movie theatre in town is showing the Lost boys, fitting as the failed vampire test – and the fact that the vampire is after mom – reminds the viewer of the classic film.

This is Disney piffle but it is well acted Disney piffle and thus mildly amusing and good for the kids. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.



Derek Tatum said...

"...and I hate...hillbilly music..."

Dude has obviously never listened to some good old-fashioned Psychobilly!

Dracenea said...

I love that scene in the Addam's Family movie!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers guys - Derek, so right. Dracenea, I am partial to both the Addams movies - I beluieve there was at leats one other wih a diffrent cast but haven't seen that.