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From a fan of the books...
CDF is arguably my favorite book series of all time, so I really tried to go into this with an open mind. Judging on it's own merits, I would rate the movie a 4 or 5: barely worth watching until the end, but not quite bad enough to bring back to Blockbuster before it's over. Judging it as an interpretation of the books, it doesn't even deserve a 1. Rule #1: if you're making a movie out of a series of popular books, you need to keep more than the characters names. And that is about all they left the same. Mannerisms, appearances, plot, everything was changed. Even the tagline for the movie is wrong, because the vampires in this series aren't immortal.
The plot is about what you'd get if you threw the first 3 books of the series into a blender, dumped that into a tank of starved, ravenous sharks, then let all of histories greatest sushi chefs ginsu it until nothing recognizable remained. One thing that keeps popping up: YES this is a vampire movie, but NO, Twilight fans, this series was around for about a decade before the solar-powered disco balls ruined vampire fiction for us all.
John C. Reilly gives probably the best performance in the film. While a good bit different than described in the books, his portrayal of Mr. Crepsley was at least entertaining to watch. William Dafoe appears for all of about 5 minutes as the supposed-to-be battle hardened veteran vampire Gavner Purl, except Dafoe looks and vaguely acts like John Waters. Ken Watanabe is merely decent as the circus owner, Mr. Tall. Michael Cerveris' character, Desmond Tiny, is supposed to be the embodiment of cold, bone chilling evil, but comes across as the flamboyant uncle you try to avoid at family reunions. I have nothing to say about Salma Hayek, who is there for eye candy first, and plot significance second. Finally, Ray Stevenson almost comes off as menacing as the villain Murlough, even though the character is supposed to have dark purple skin and glowing red eyes, hair, lips and nails, but following the source material is for squares Daddy-O!
But Chris Massoglia, playing the lead role, literally could not have been worse. I've used this analogy before, but I have seen corpses show more emotion than this kid. In a scene when he has to fake his own death(undoubtedly causing his family and loved ones incredible pain and suffering, mind you) he acts as if he could be going to a pizza parlor for dinner. In the books, Darren is an impulsive hothead. In the film, Massoglia could have been replaced with a Bozo the Clown blow up doll and you would have seen more emotion (at least the doll would smile). Yeah, yeah, one could argue that he's young and inexperienced, but I don't buy that. I've known first time actors, many of whom were much younger than Massoglia, do much better jobs than he did. Hell, Anna Paquin won an Oscar when she was 12! If there is any justice in the world, Chris Massoglia will never work again and Edward Norton will finally win an Oscar.
I did get one brief laugh towards the end though, when Reilly was fighting Ray Stevenson's character, and that was only because in the books Darren remarks on how short their fight was (supposed to be) because "they weren't trying to please action-hungry audiences", when the fight scene was nothing but spectacle filled, drawn out filth attempting to do just that.
If you would like an emotionally driven, decently written vampire saga, read the Cirque du Freak books. If you'd like to see a book-film adaptation so bad that some electricity might actually refuse to power it, watch this movie.
2/10, and that's me being generous.