October 25, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Little Vampire

Current Status
In Season
94 minutes
Richard E. Grant, Jonathan Lipnicki, Rollo Weeks
Uli Edel
New Line Cinema
Karey Kirkpatrick
Drama, Sci-fi and Fantasy
We gave it a D

For child actors, physiognomy is destiny. Haley Joel Osment has the face of an adult, and a complex, troubled one at that; that’s part of what’s so magnetic about him. Jonathan Lipnicki, on the other hand, still looks like a newborn. The Little Vampire, a rickety holiday contraption, employs Lipnicki as a kind of chubby cheeked lisp machine (alarmingly, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day since he costarred in ”Jerry Maguire” four years ago), and the result ends up making kiddie culture look even more infantile than it already is.

As a lonely American boy who moves with his parents to a remote corner of Scotland, Lipnicki befriends a gray skinned kid vampire (Rollo Weeks), who takes him on soaring voyages through the night sky, like some undead version of the ”Flying Nun.” In return, our pint size hero teaches his supernatural pal to say ”dude,” ”duh,” and (with raised fist) ”yes!” That’s all way cool.

For most of the picture, though, Lipnicki has nothing to do but stand around cheesy catacomb sets, mugging and gawking as a sinister vampire slayer attempts to destroy his new friend’s family (led by Richard E. Grant and Alice Krige), who are so courtly and domesticated that you practically expect them to sport V chips in place of fangs. ”The Little Vampire” would like to be a Halloween treat, but it’s more like a nightmare of blandness.

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