VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Mark Waters). Opens Friday (February 7). 110 minutes. See listings. Rating: N
I can say this for Vampire Academy: there's an academy in it, and there are vampires.
I have no idea whether Daniel Waters's movie accurately represents the tones or textures of Richelle Mead's novel, but I doubt it; surely if an author tried so nakedly to staple Harry Potter and Twilight together, the young-adult audience would see straight through it and move on to the next Mortal Instruments book.
I also suspect that Mead's books have a consistent tone, though whether that's a jokey high-school-with-monsters thing or a grim young-woman-caught-between-two-worlds thing, again, I cannot say. Because the movie is a mess.
Some of Vampire Academy is standard teen comedy, as you might expect from the director of Mean Girls. Large chunks of the film deal with BFFs Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), who are respectively a Dhampir warrior guardian and the vampire royalty she's sworn to protect. Their friendship is a little deeper than most 17-year-olds': Lissa and Rose share a psychic bond, and occasionally the half-vampire Rose offers her neck to Lissa for a little nourishment.
After a perfunctory introduction involving a flashback and a fight scene in Portland, Oregon, Rose and Lissa wind up back at St. Vladimir's Academy in Montana, where their kind are sheltered from the outside world - but remain very vulnerable to backstabbing queen bees and boys with cheekbones that could cut glass.
Every time the movie tilts toward the vampire stuff, with its dense mythology of Moroi purebloods and red-eyed Strigoi berserkers and some strange doings amongst the faculty, it just screeches to a halt. (That such screeching can happen in the middle of an otherwise charming scene is a clear indication of post-production retooling.)
When the movie does stay focused on Rose's story, Deutch makes a very likeable hero, juggling Vampire Academy's supernatural gravitas and its looser, comical material easily. The movie ends on the promise of a sequel, not that one is likely to materialize. But I'd almost be willing to sit through it to see what she can do as a proper star.