Film Review – Vamps
My friend Violet loves teenage sex comedies. Which would be completely unremarkable except for the fact that she is 60. But whatever: different strokes for different folks, etc. One of her favorite movies is Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and if you get her just the right amount of drunk she will talk about it forever. It’s awesome. Fast Times is okay, I guess, but if we are going to talk about Amy Heckerling movies—and we are —I am more of a Clueless girl. For me, it is just about the only proof I have that the ’90s were not a complete waste of time and energy. (Not a big fan.) Clueless is a perfect movie. It has a great script, spot-on casting, wonderful performances, an awesome soundtrack, and great direction: not a single false move. I love Clueless unconditionally, and it has created goodwill towards its stars and director that has lasted for almost two decades. (No matter how many crappy-ass movies Paul Rudd is in, he is perfect in my eyes.) When I heard that director Heckerling and star Alicia Silverstone were teaming up again for Vamps, I got super excited. When I heard this movie was pretty much going straight to DVD, I was a little less excited, but hopeful in my heart. It could be awesome, right? Sigh.
Vamps tells the story of Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter), two vampires who are living it up in New York City. They—like some other famous movie vampires—don’t actually drink human blood, but work in the pest control business in order to have unlimited rat access. Stacy has only been undead for 20 years, but Goody has been a vampire for a very long time, and being forever young has lost it luster. New technologies and slang have become confusing, and she’s bored going through the same empty motions night after night. One evening, she and Stacy run into one of Goody’s old loves from the ’60s, Danny (Richard Lewis), and she is driven to tell him what she really is. Danny is currently married, but his wife is dying, and Goody is just happy to spend time with someone who once had meaning to her. Stacy, on the other hand, is pursuing a love affair with Joey (Dan Stevens), who happens to be the son of Vampire Hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn). Throw in a subplot where a mysterious force is trying to force all of the vampires in New York to go out in the daytime to serve jury duty or attend tax audits, and you ought to have the makings of a fun, if slight, comedy.
Unfortunately, in order for something to be a comedy, it has to be funny. You can have humorous situations, or maybe jokes, or even outrageous behavior. I don’t have the time, or even the skillz really, to explain comedy; it’s a complicated thing. But I can tell you this: whatever it is that makes things funny, this film doesn’t have very much of it. I approached this movie with all of the good intentions I could muster, but not even the sheer force of my will could make this comedy comedic. Everything fell flat for me. But, in spite of a singularly banal script, everyone performs as if they were in the broadest comedy imaginable.
And that is where the real crime lies. There are some amazing performers in this film, and every single one of them falls flat. Alicia Silverstone just looks confused. Krysten Ritter is blah. (Also, what is up with the lingering scenes where they lotion up their legs? What movie are those supposed to be in?) I do not watch Downton Abbey, but everyone acts like Dan Stevens is some kind of dreamy dude. Not here, he isn’t. Wallace Shawn is just frantic. And Sigourney Weaver as the girls’ maker is out of control. She is a very funny lady, but not when she is hamming it up. She’s awful here. Richard Lewis is sappy, and they completely waste Kristen Johnston as Mrs. Van Helsing, which is a crime against humanity. I think she tries to have a British accent (to explain why her son does), but it’s hard to tell, and most of the time it’s like she’s drugged up. It’s horrible. I did think Zak Orth was kind of funny as Renfield, but it was not enough. I’m not even going to talk about Malcolm McDowell as a knitting-obsessed Vlad Tepish, the gender politics of this film, the horrible special effects, or the sappiness of it all. It’s too disheartening. I want Amy Heckerling to get more opportunities to make awesome movies, but every decision she made here was wrong. You’re not going to have an aneurism or anything if you watch this film, and I’m sure some people are going to like it, but it just made me sad.
Final Grade: C- (I kind of want to give this a lower grade, but it just might break my heart to do so.)