Little Jonathan Lipnicki, child star of The Little Vampire as well as Stuart Little and Jerry Maguire, has a very lethal talent. That talent is the rare skill of infinite cuteness. Of course it could be argued that Jonathan's special 'talent' is in fact a pint-sized curse of terminal clumsiness and vertical challenges, but what the hey, the kid's still cuter than Shirley Temple in a bunny suit. I have to wonder whether the poor lad is strung out yet from the sheer amount of old lady cheek pinching that he must experience.
The tale starts as a classic fish out of water scenario. The Thompson family have taken leave from their home in the USA and are making a new life for themselves in Scotland, and the littlest Thompson, Tony (Lipnicki), is finding it hard to make new friends. On top of being bullied every day, the poor little fella is now convinced that vampires exist due to the constant and vivid dreams he has been experiencing. For this he is also receiving no end of ridicule. But Jonathan will soon have his own back on all of the naysayers, as he befriends a real-life vampire by the name of Rudolph. Soon enough Jonathan finds himself involved in an important quest with Rudolph and his family, the outcome of which may free all vampires of their curse forever.
Lipnicki is priceless as Tony Thompson, almost unbearably cute as he gets around in his vampire cape and chequered shorts. Admittedly, adults probably won't find any of his gags very funny, but the kids will probably eat them up. Besides, there is plenty of humour to be found in other areas, particularly the vampire hunter and his brilliant array of vampire fighting materials. The film is not without its heart-warming moments either, particularly the maturing of Tony's relationship with Rudolph and his vampire family. Most curious however, is just how little Tony Thompson finds the energy to go to school during the day and visit with his vampire comrades during the evening, by my calculations, leaving him with about 3 hours sleep per night.
Being only a single-sided DVD5, forgiveness will be granted when assuming this will not be the greatest of transfers. Indeed, the film has its fair share of film grain in the darker scenes, of which there are many, being a vampire film and all. However, this is a family title. As a discerning DVD enthusiast, you may find them a little distracting, but if your kids can tell the difference then I would seriously be thinking about changing their names to Doogie and Howser.
Other than these small problems, the only other noticeable problems seemed to be a couple of instances of MPEG artifacting between the background and complicated foreground images like hair. Although it is worth noting that these were only very slight and I only picked up on them twice in the entire film. Again, hardly something to complain about when you are watching it with the kiddie(s).
The rest of the presentation remains more than acceptable in terms of sharpness, colour reproduction and black levels. In particular, the rich green hills and plains of Scotland are a real treat on the eyes when presented during daytime. As much of the film takes place at night it is a good thing indeed that shadow detail is above average.
Whilst seemingly a little too quiet in certain moments, the 5.1 surround track provided is acceptable enough. The playful score seems to be the only thing that takes real advantage of the surround channels, with the wild sound only occasionally creeping into the rear and sub-woofer channels.
I often found the mixing to be just a little bit off during the presentation. Whenever more than one thing would occur, dialogue and wild sounds would often become a little muted causing confusion in overall audio levels. It is not a dramatic problem, but it occurs nonetheless.
An almost bare bones release indeed. Two trailers are provided, both of which are very sharp and clean, and are presented in widescreen. If only all trailers were treated with the same care as they have been here. The first trailer is for The Little Vampire whilst the second is labelled a 'Preview' of See Spot Run, starring David Arquette.
Included at the very beginning of the disc is Roadshow's brand new take on the old "This is DVD..." advertisement. It showcases some of Roadshow's future and past releases, describing what their discs have to offer, etc. I seriously thought most of us were past having the format of DVD explained to us, but at least the advertisement is pretty, sounds great and most importantly, can be skipped.
Despite falling a little flat after its opening, The Little Vampire soon turns into a truly great fantasy film for the whole family, providing a nice little incarnation of the 'odd friendship' storyline. Adults will get quite a few giggles out of it, but this is truly a film that the kids will love. There is no real dumbing down of any of the concepts and the film contains a genuine sense of wit that will appeal to anyone young at heart. You want flying vampire cows that shoot dung at their foes? You got it.