Excitement regarding “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf” will likely depend on the target audience’s hunger for excuses to spend more time with Victoria Justice, the star of Nickelodeon’s “Victorious.” Otherwise, there’s little to recommend this inoffensive if remarkably cheap-looking movie, except perhaps the chance to see Brooke Shields channel her inner Cloris Leachman. As Halloween-themed programming goes, this will probably do OK with kids, but for the most part, “Werewolf” is another one of those easy-to-market titles in search of a movie.
Justice plays the shy 17-year-old Jordan, who discovers along with her widowed father (Matt Winston) and younger brother Hunter (Chase Ellison) that the family has inherited a castle from Great Uncle Dragomir in Wolfsberg, Romania. They arrive in the small hamlet (which looks more like a portion of the Universal Studios tour) during a festival devoted to the legendary Wolfsberg Beast.
While dad tries to sell the property, Jordan experiences a lab accident that transforms her into a werewolf. Of course, this isn’t all bad news: Her lupine instincts make her more aggressive in dealing with an attractive local boy (Steven Grayhm), and her prank-pulling brother is a devotee of the macabre.
The manor, meanwhile, is presided over by Shields’ stern, thickly accented Madame Varcolac, whose mere name unleashes baying howls in the distance. “Stay in room at night. Lock door,” she warns, in a performance described as an homage to Leachman’s Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein,” but which, given the sub-pubescent audience’s likelihood of recognizing the gag, feels more like petty theft.
After a lengthy wind-up of Scooby-Doo-type spookiness, the script by Douglas Sloan and Art Brown delivers the entire plot — a mish-mash of horror cliches — in one exhausting burst of exposition before the fuzzy, not-very-threatening werewolves finally leap into action. By then, it pretty much ought to be bedtime for anyone apt to buy into this level of hokey fun.
While the movie’s harmless enough — and features the cast in an amusing karaoke closing-credits bit, which, alas, has more energy than anything that precedes it — given the slim production values and indifferent direction, an amended version of Madame Varcolac’s advice comes to mind: “Stay in room at night. Read book.”