Eight-year-old Tony Thompson has moved from California to Scotland with his parents (his dad designs golf courses). Soon after arriving, Tony has recurring dreams about ghastly, hissing, fanged vampires. To cope with those nightmares, he boyishly pretends to be one of the "undead." His father and classmates mock Tony's fascination with the creepy creatures, but Tony doesn't seem to mind, especially when he encounters a young vampire named Rudolph. The two of them strike up a friendship, but Rudolph's family isn't so quick to trust a mortal. When Rudolph's clan needs shelter from an obsessed vampire hunter armed with wooden stakes and a glowing cross, Tony proves his trustworthiness by finding the perfect hideout. From then on the pair become an inseparable team searching for a missing amulet that will break a 300-year-old curse and return an entire community of bloodsuckers [insert lawyer joke here] to human form.
positive elements: Tony and Rudolph develop a brotherly bond despite their differences. At first, Tony enjoys flying through the moonlit sky so much that he says he wishes he could be a vampire himself, though Rudolph assures him that the grass isn't greener on the other side of the graveyard fence and that he should be thankful for who he is. Rudolph pays a nocturnal visit to some bullies from Tony's school when he finds out they have been making fun of his new friend. Tony not only befriends the vampires, he risks his own life to offer them refuge and rescue them from sure death on more than one occasion. In return, Rudolph and his clan also risk their necks to save him. A father defends his family from harm by fighting against a killer. Tony's loving parents battle to stop the slayer from murdering a group of vampires. When Rudolph's brother voices his intention to suck the blood of humans, his father responds, "We want to become humans, not eat them." A mother chides her son for getting into a fight at school. Tony's father shows remorse after ridiculing him.
spiritual content: The major downfall of the film. Young viewers will find themselves wondering about the fictional realm between life and death as the vampires inhabit the realm of the "undead." Indeed, misguided views about the supernatural world mar much of the story. In typical vampire fashion, the mythological "bloodsucking" creatures are confronted throughout the film with crosses, wooden stakes, curses, light and garlic. One man hates vampires so much that he wishes to "send them straight to hell" leaving impressionable minds to wonder if it's alright to wish that of their enemies. In one conversation about the netherworld a man says, "You're either alive or dead. There's no in between" only to be greeted with the response, "Unless you're vampires." Jazzed about having a vampire as a pal, Tony claims, "I am the lord of the underworld!"
Christian families will object to the way vampire lore and symbolism is turned on its head. Specifically, a cross was a symbol of purity and holiness unbearable to the evil Count Dracula and generations of vampires after him. By turning vampires into a sympathetic, persecuted subculture and vilifying the cross-wielding hunter, The Little Vampires turns his luminous religious "weapon" into a symbol of persecution and intolerance.
Three people are hypnotized while incantations allow another group to break an ancient spell. The vampires use a magical stone to break a curse that has kept them in bondage for centuries. In addition, young Tony has vampire-related flashbacks of events that occurred centuries earlier. A careless comment by Tony's dad during a business meeting refers to "weather gods." All disturbing examples for young, impressionable youth.
sexual content: A lady wears a low-cut blouse.
violent content: Two men fight over a magical stone. Some bullies manhandle a fellow student and ridicule him in class. Tony fights with some boys at school and ends up with a bloody nose. Wooden stakes are shot at vampires in an attempt to kill them. Using a sledgehammer, a man breaks down a door. When a vampire is exposed to light, he begins to smoke. A graveyard worker's neck is bitten by a vampire. An open tomb houses a long-dead, ashen-complexioned couple who had stakes driven into their chests (one example of the aftermath of implied violence). Many intense, menacing, creepy scenes portray vampires as unpredictably threatening or downright scary. The slayer closes little Tony in a concrete tomb and leaves him for dead. A truck bears down on Tony (only a last-minute rescue by Rudolph keeps him from becoming road kill). The young boy's parents protect the vampires from harm by hitting a man and throwing him over a cliff.
crude or profane language: Several crude expressions. The phrase "Oh my God" is used a couple of times.
drug and alcohol content: Guests drink alcohol at a party. A man smokes cigars.
other negative elements: Instead of drinking the blood of humans, these vampires do their best to abstain by feeding on cows instead. They can be heard slurping and, in one shot, the mother vampire wipes the chin of her offspring. While meant to be humorous, it's pretty disgusting. The cows, in turn, become possessed. A flying, red-eyed bovine defecates on the villain's windshield, causing him to wreck. For good luck, Rudolph's smitten sister gives Tony a dead rat. Numerous jokes make light of vampires' thirst for human blood.
conclusion: Based on a series of books, The Little Vampire seeks to follow in the tradition of the "family" horror franchise The Adams Family by combining spooky, yet restrained occultism with a story about relationships. It's a gothic parable about accepting people who are different and not letting outward appearances or social status (blissful mortals vs. tormented undead) get in the way of potential friendships. Not a bad message at its core. But when the cross becomes a symbol of persecution and intolerance as it is wielded by the bad guy, and heroic deeds and happy endings rely heavily on the occult, noble intentions go up in smoke like a vampire at sunrise. The film's young star, Jonathan Lipnicki, should find more roles like the one he played in last year's wonderful offering, Stuart Little. In the end, this gothic Halloween "after-school special" of a movie is too ominous and scary for its intended audience. And for many children it will serve as a portal into more advanced fright-fests like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. Some sweet music and cartoonish sound effects try to keep the tone light, but do little to change the lasting impression, which may have legions of 6-year-olds climbing in bed with mom and dad after seeing The Little Vampire.