Film Review: ‘Vampire Academy’

Vampire Academy

A worse-than-perfunctory first (and probably final) screen adaptation of Richelle Mead's above-average young-adult series.

Richelle Mead’s above-average series of young-adult fantasy novels gets a worse-than-perfunctory screen launch with “Vampire Academy,” which not only plays like the crassest possible mashup of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” elements, but seems designed to make those franchises look like eternal monuments of world culture by comparison. This desperately paced teenage soap opera with fangs is unlikely to spawn the follow-up its fadeout teases, given its wan $3.9 opening weekend. But ancillary sales should help it to eventually recoup.

Wanting to live like ordinary people, Rose (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa (Lucy Fry) have managed a year in the outside world before they’re dragged back to secluded St. Vladimir’s Academy, a very Hogwartsian institution (albeit only for high-school hotties) in rural Montana. There, those of the Moroi (nice vampires with magical powers) and Dhampir (their athletic half-human protectors) races are at least theoretically protected from the predatory Strigoi (superstrong bad vampires who have traditional allergies to daylight, churches, stakes in the heart, etc.). Lissa’s absence wasn’t about to be tolerated, as she’s a Moroi princess who might succeed Queen Tatiana (Joely Richardson) on the throne.

Instructors and students alike basically fall into three categories: bitchy but hot (headmistress Olga Kurylenko, mean girl Sami Gayle), nerdy but kinda hot (sidekicks Sarah Hyland and Cameron Monaghan), and just hot (Danila Kozlovsky as a Robert Pattinson-esque brooding bad boy, Danila Kozlovsky as Dhampir Rose’s hunky fight trainer). Our two heroines try to decide which cute boy they like best a la “Twilight,” while dissing rivals and dealing with ominous signs of conspiracy afoot a la “Potter.” It’s like any trashy smallscreen teen hookup meller, albeit without the texting (unless the telepathy between Rose and Lissa counts), and with a pace so accelerated it’s a surprise the characters don’t speak in Minnie Mouse-style helium voices.

Hectic doesn’t mean exciting, though — or atmospheric, funny, scary or much of anything else. Dialogue consisting almost entirely of strained so-five-minutes-ago youth slang and expository mumbo-jumbo is delivered at a machine-gun rate that suggests helmer Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) and sibling scenarist Daniel (“Heathers”) thought this was a Preston Sturges movie. (Alas, it’s not even “Mean Girls” or “Heathers.”) Or that they hoped a frantic acting/editing rhythm would cover the numbingly generic quality of the proceedings on every level.

Mead’s six “Vampire Academy” books (there’s also an ongoing spinoff series, “Bloodlines”) are relatively brainy and complex within their young-adult subgenre, but their virtues have been reduced to a derivative hash here. Lissa’s late speech about bullying and slut shaming is one remnant of the original book’s tenor (the plot remains fairly intact), yet its sudden earnestness feels ridiculously out of place here.

Apparently Ellen Page was unavailable; the pic does what it thinks is the next best thing and has lookalike Deutch imitate the “Juno”-era thesp as closely as possible. But all the performers deserve condolences rather than criticism. Perhaps the wisest choice was made by rising Russian star Kozlovsky, who remains so expressionless that he can in all honesty now say that he never acted in anything called “Vampire Academy.” He does, however, appear in it, which is also the kindest way you can describe the contributions of fellow grownup thesps Gabriel Byrne, Richardson and Kurylenko.

Design and tech contributions are pro if nondescript. The notable CGI effect, of two snarling “psi-hounds,” is weak enough to suggest budgetary as well as imaginative limitations at work.

Film Review: 'Vampire Academy'

Reviewed at AMC 1000 Van Ness, San Francisco, Feb. 10, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 104 MIN.

Production

(U.K.-Romania) A Weinstein Co. release presented with Reliance Entertainment, in association with IM Global and Kintop Pictures, of a Deepak Nayar production, in association with Preger Entertainment and Montford/Murphy Prods. Produced by Don Murphy, Susan Montford, Michael Preger, Deepak Nayar. Executive producers, Stuart Ford, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Waters, Daniel Waters, Jessica Tuchinsky. Co-producers, Jillian Defrehn, Cory Kaplan, Nicole Power, Vlad Paunescu. Co-executive producer, David Norton.

Crew

Directed by Mark Waters. Screenplay, Daniel Waters, based on the novel by Richelle Mead. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Tony Pierce-Roberts; editor, Chris Gill; music, Rolfe Kent; music supervisor, Howard Parr; production designer, Frank Walsh; art directors, Anthony Thomson, Tom Whitehead; set decorator, Lisa Chugg; costume designer, Ruth Myers; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Trevis; supervising sound editor/sound designer, Glenn Freemantle; line producer, Paul Sarony; assistant director, Toby Ford; casting, Marci Linoff, Reg Poerscout-Edgerton.

With

Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Dominic Sherwood, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Sarah Hyland, Claire Foy, Ashley Charles, Edward Holcroft, Chris Mason, Ben Peel, Joely Richardson, Olga Kurylenko, Gabriel Byrne. (English dialogue)

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  1. Tay says:

    People may hate it but others love it like myself. So keep your opinions to yourself and get a life rather than try to ruin others enjoyment!! who cares if the character Dimitri isn’t tan or Zoe (Rose) doesn’t remotely look Turkish! It is a beautiful adaptation of a book written by Mead, showing the love and courage of a true friendship bond and the real love and respect every human being should received and given to all.

  2. jen says:

    Jen says: I think you’re all crazy if you think this movie follows the books. First off Rose never kicked ass in the first book til later, and when Dimitri found them it was the fall he caught her in and seeing the bite on her neck that first caught his eye. Also as attractive as Danila is the series gives excellent description of the people and places in the books especially Dimitri and Rose and to make Dimitri that pale was a joke it was his tall, tan and nuscular built with that glorious hair that caught Rose’s eye first. Also Rose was of Turkish decent there is nothing Turkish about our actress. There are so many more liberties that this movie took it was laughable. At least Twilight could be watched and read together. The easiest comparison to this movie is Vampires suck meets mean girls. To bad we won’t have a chance for them to fix this. I know there won’t be a sequal.

    • Joey says:

      sweetie, you need to get a reality check. First of all, a tanned Russian? Good luck in finding one because they are not notorious for their tanning abilities. Second, Rose was HALF Turkish. Or did you not remember that her mom is white/Irish? So yes, she can pass as half Turkish. Last I checked, no one here is a genetic expert and can exactly say how she would really look. She could be more white, but retain the dark hair/eyes, or the opposite. Stop nitpicking about things that aren’t so relevant. The movie was a GREAT adaptation, and you’re just in the minority. And just because those small details are slightly different, doesn’t automatically fail at it being like the book.

      • Xas says:

        Considering the sequels are DOA and the film is a full certified BOMB, you must be the full minority after all, Joey

  3. Nina says:

    VA was done exceedingly better than Twilight. I hope the movie does better in sales when it comes out in DVD. That could maybe ensure another movie. Richelle Mead is an awesome writer.

  4. MaricelA says:

    All i can say is that Ive read the books & loved them. saw the movie & loved it. & I’m hoping to get to see the rest of the books turn in to movies. I would like to see the other characters like **Adrian ** & would also love to get the spinoff books Bloodlines turn inti movies, because i want to see the good side of adrian.

  5. Joey says:

    And lastly, I find it very insulting that every so called professional reviewer keeps comparing this to Twilight when in fact it’s NOTHING like it. This review lost all it’s credibility just on this fact. Well lack of facts.

    • CC says:

      I completely agree! I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to punch a so-called-profession-reviewer in the face because they aren’t taking their job seriously. If the word “Twilight” is used anywhere in a Vampire Academy review, I completely ignore said review because they obviously didn’t take their review – their JOB – seriously, so I won’t be taking it seriously. Who hires these people anyway?

      • doubledang says:

        So a story involving vampires at high school has no overlap with a story involving vampires and werewolves at high school? You must live in a very narrow world where every novel or movie involves supernatural high schoolers.

      • Joey says:

        It’s getting ridiculous. It’s almost like reading a Fox news article.

  6. El says:

    in my opinion the movie is very faithful to the book and even though it is kinda fast paced it doesn’t dissapoint! it just makes you thirsty for more. additionaly zoey and danila have amazing chemistry and btw dimitri is supposed to be expressionless he is a guardian it’s his job. :) well everyone is entitled to their own opinion but the movie certainly DOES NOT suck. so you can always go WATCH IT and see for yourself that it’s actually worth the trouble, and for those faithful book fans,the wait. ;)

  7. delanie fether says:

    it really sucks it doesnt go well with the books and if you read the books before watching the movie i suggest you dont watch it it REALLY SUCKS :( honestly i was hoping that it only showed the funny parts on the tralier but its like that the whole time which im fine with but rose is supposto be a bad ass she seemed wimpy AND in the books dimitry and rose diddnt fall that fast and he was more closed off then he relented but nooo that diddnt happen also the freaken strigoi mob diddnt happen until a couple books later and miss.harp wasnt there she was in a house in the suburbs so it sucked

    • CC says:

      Did you even read the books? I’ve read all of them at least six times and the movie went along with the book perfectly. Rose IS a badass, but she wasn’t anywhere near Dimitri-level in the first book. And she wasn’t whiny. In fact, Rose is MORE whiny in the book than she was in the movie – moping around in her bedroom for a weekend after Jessie and his friends start that rumor about her. As for how Rose and Dimitri fell for each other, the movie was perfectly paced. How did they end up together in the books? Victor put that spell on the necklace and it propelled them toward each other. They certainly wouldn’t have been together as fast even in the books if it weren’t for that lust spell! Barely anything happened between them until the lust spell, which is exactly how it happens in the book. How do you know that Ms. Karp was in that house throughout ALL SIX BOOKS? That makes no sense. Almost two years goes by in the books and we’re told that Strigoi move a lot to stay undetected. You really think Ms. Karp is stupid enough to stay in that one spot? No. I didn’t like the fact that they brought the Strigoi in so early in the movie either, but I realized that they HAD to do that in order to fully explain what the Strigoi are. Movies aren’t like books; explaining what a Strigoi is in the book is easy because you have all the words right there and you can go back if you are confused. In movies, though, they give you an information dump and it’s confusing. It’s easier to SEE what they are in a movie than have it explained to you.

    • Joey says:

      Honey, I don’t know what book you read, but first of all, this movie was really faithful to the book. Second, Rose doesn’t become a bad Ass till the third book, and third, while she did fall a little bit for him in the movie, it was still subtle. The first book WAS mostly funny, and it wasn’t the best book in the series. And as far as the Strigoi mob in the end, that was just hinting on what’s to come, doesn’t mean it actually happened. And the Karl thing, well that’s the only thing you actually were right about in your rant. And honestly, a minor change like that means nothing.

    • i find it extremely amusing that you decided that the movies sucks just because it isn’t 100% faitful to the book. it’s a book to movie ADAPTATION and just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean that you should encourage other people not to see it. they may like it and if so and it does relatively good we just might get a sequel with a bigger budget and better advertising. just try to be open minded and give it a chance. you were expecting something different i get that but the movie really isn’t so bad.think about it :)

  8. Logan Huggins says:

    Hahaha. Hilarious.

    “Perhaps the wisest choice was made by rising Russian star Kozlovsky, who remains so expressionless that he can in all honesty now say that he never acted in anything called ‘Vampire Academy.'”

    Well Written!

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