On DVD and Blu-ray: Cirque du Freak: Vampire's Assistant
Not having caught Cirque du Freak: Vampire's Assistant in the theater, I had high hopes for it based on the DVD menu and opening sequence. The title animation was spider-y and Coraline-y and left me optimistic that somehow the Buffy-shaped hole in our heart would be filled by this vampire comedy. Optimism quickly waned as soon as vampire John C. Reilly made his first appearance in a Little Orphan Annie wig. With terrible performances all around from each and every actor in it's decent cast (Reilly, Willem Defoe, Salma Hayek, Patrick Fugit), this Cirque was harder to stomach than the clown sequences in Kooza.
At one hour 45 minutes, the movie itself is overly long, but the four (!) menu screen's worth of deleted scenes are overkill. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner explained in the disc's "Guide to Becoming A Vampire" that the film, which is based on the Cirque du Freak book series by Darren Shan, underwent some drastic script changes, saying, "We had a draft where we adhered closer to the books and made it a bit more serious and a bit darker...Then [director] Paul Weitz came on and Paul's take was to make it more comedic and fun."
The film lacks both those things, so we're pinning our disappointment entirely on Weitz -- brother of Chris, the far more successful vampire-movie-helming member of the family -- and his vision. The Inverse Proportionality DVD Bonuses Rule states that the worse the movie is, the better the special features are; for this disc, every actor and crew member made themselves available for the numerous behind-the-scenes features. For fans of the book, the in-depth interviews and character introductions in the "Tour du Freak" feature might be appreciated, but like the movie itself, it's mostly unwatchable.
Cirque du Freak DVD Extras:
"Guide to Becoming A Vampire"
"Tour du Freak"
Amazon Blu-ray Price: $24.99
Amazon DVD Price: $17.99
Buyer, Renter or Coaster?: Coaster (times ten)