Review: Vampire Academy
PLOT: A seventeen-year-old Dhampir (half human- half vampire) named Rose (Zoey Deutch) is in training at St. Vladimir's Academy to become a guardian- dedicated to protecting their Moroi masters (full blooded but peaceful vamps) with their lives. Her Moroi best friend, Lissa (Lucy Fry) is the next-in-line to the royal throne of the Moroi, making her the target of an evil vampire race called the Strigoi.
REVIEW: Sometimes bad movies happen to talented people, but even by that logic, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is just awful. Based on the YA series by Richelle Mead, think TWILIGHT crossed with HARRY POTTER, with a chunk of MEAN GIRLS dropped into the mix. Well, at least that's what I'm sure the studio wants you to think, but the film goes so awry so quickly that it's hard to believe even the easiest-to-please tween girl audience will be hoping for a VAMPIRE ACADEMY 2.
In fact, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is so awful in its first act that it's surprising it's getting a theatrical release at all. Even the concept feels stunningly wrongheaded, with the Dhampir's essentially being content slaves. Is that the message Hollywood should be pedalling to young audiences? What's even worse is that this is not the work of untalented people. Brothers Mark and Daniel Waters ushered this series to the big screen, with Mark directing and Daniel doing the script. Both of them have done good work in the past. Mark directed MEAN GIRLS, one of the better teen movies of its era, while Daniel wrote an all-out classic with the great HEATHERS. Heck, even if you take that away from him, he's still had an interesting filmography, writing the ultra-bleak BATMAN RETURNS (a deliriously twisted movie if you haven't watched it in awhile) along with the underrated HUDSON HAWK (a movie I'll always defend) and giving the Stallone vehicle DEMOLITION MAN an uncommonly sharp wit for a studio actioner from that era. What the heck happened?
The only logical guess is that VAMPIRE ACADEMY either got re-shot, and/or re-cut at the last minute, with so much exposition packed into the first five minutes it's like walking into the second film in a franchise without having seen the first. The dialogue is so clunky that it's unintentionally hilarious. Things don't get too much better as the film goes on, even if it's not as disastrous as the first hour. Attempts to give the film an intriguing romantic subplot (or ten) fall flat, and while the Waters Bros at least try to make this a little more action-y than usual for the genre by including lots of hand-to-hand scraps, everything is by the numbers and without any imagination.
The only thing the movie really has going for it is star Zoey Deutch. The daughter of Lea Thompson (and her SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL director Howard Deutch) she has the same mix of spunk and sexiness her mom had (or rather, has) and seems like with a good role she could go places. This isn't it, as she's forced to spout some terribly clunky exposition, while juggling a really awkward mix of high school teen clichés and fantasy, all while explaining this insanely convoluted world of Dhampir's and Morois. Other than Deutch, her onscreen love interest, the brooding Danila Kozlovsky shows some promise in that he does well in the action scenes- as dull as they are- and seems not to take himself as seriously as the rest of the cast.
As usual for a YA adaptation that's also a hopeful launching pad for a new franchise, some respected names are sprinkled in the cast, with Gabriel Byrne phoning it in as one of the school's elders (he deserves better roles) while Olga Kurylenko is wasted as the school's headmistress. MODERN FAMILY's Sarah Hyland also shows up as the “geeky girl” who (natch) has a secret. It's all very boring.
Happily, VAMPIRE ACADEMY will likely just be a footnote in everyone’s filmography, and will likely be as quickly forgotten as other franchise non-starters like BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, CITY OF EMBER and countless others. It's not the first atrocious YA adaptation, and it certainly won't be the last.
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