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Cute Suffices

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The Little Vampire (PG)
New Line Cinema

One of the requirements that I have set myself as an amateur movie reviewer is to sit through all the credits of all the movies I see. Usually this doesn't garner much for a review, only the last seat in the house and, should I desire, other people's leftover popcorn. But I have to say that the credits of The Little Vampire were well worth the sit. Not because they had cute outtakes but because some of the jobs that people were credited with doing were so interesting. Like "Virtual Cow Veterinarian," "Latin Translator," and "Rat Wrangler."

There were some others, but I couldn't get my pencil out fast enough.

Don't let me give you the wrong impression here: There were other parts of this movie that were equally fun. There are flying cows and mean men in giant vampire-catching contraptions ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Little Vampire is based on a popular series of children's books by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg. In this fantasy tale, nine-year-old Tony Thompson (Jonathan Lipnicki) has moved with his family from California to Scotland while his father (Tommy Hinckley) is designing a golf course for Lord McAshton (John Wood), a scion of ancient Scottish nobility. As if things weren't bad enough for Tommy, what with a new school and the nephews of Lord McAshton bullying him at school, the poor child begins to have nightmares about vampires and comets and strange historical rites.

One evening, while his parents are out at a party, who should fly into Tommy's room but Rudolph, a young vampire who badly needs a snack. Unfortunately for Rudolph, but fortunately for Tommy, Rudolph's clan no longer drinks human blood, preferring not to turn more humans into tormented vampires. Instead, Tommy has to haul Rudolph in his little wagon to find a cow from which to suck. The two become fast friends, and Tommy becomes caught up in the vampire family's quest to once again become human. Their way is blocked, of course, by a couple of bad guys, most notably Rookery (Jim Carter), a hereditary vampire killer and his various vampire-catching contraptions.

The real fun of the movie comes from some of its unexpected twists -- like the fact that the vampires are good and the vampire catchers bad -- as well as from nice atmospherics that seem to hit just the right note of scary-but-not-too-scary. Little ones will probably get a great kick out of the gags like the cows that become afraid of the light and start hiding out in dark barns after their vampire encounters.

If The Little Vampire doesn't have the coherence or overall interest to make it a great children's classic, well, it is sufficiently cute to compensate.

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