November 16, 2012
For awhile director Amy Heckerling had a good run of films in the 1980s and 1990s, responsible for two stone cold classics – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Clueless (1995) – and several popular comedies – National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) and Look Who’s Talking (1989). However, the 2000s and beyond have not been kind and she’s struggled to find financing for her projects and the ones that did get made weren’t all that good (Loser). Her latest offering is Vamps (2012), which reunites her with Clueless star Alicia Silverstone and sees the director fuse the sensibility of that film with the vampire sub-genre.
Goody (Silverstone) and Stacy (Ritter) are two materialistic bloodsuckers living it up in New York City. Goody turned Stacy in the ‘90s and she was transformed into a vampire in the 1800s. They don’t have a care in the world until Goody hears through the undead grapevine that someone plans to kill off the vampire (Weaver) that sired her. If that happens, she will literally show her age and be destroyed. Further complications arise when Stacy falls for one of her classmates – Joey Van Helsing (Stevens). Yes, he is the descendent of the legendary vampire hunter. Goody runs into Danny (Lewis), a guy she was involved with pretty seriously in the 1960s who has aged while she has stayed the same. Whatever will Goody and Stacy do?
Much like Clueless, Vamps relies on broad comedy with some amusing gags, like the self-help group Goody and Stacy attend for vampires that don’t feed on humans. Or the diminutive Wallace Shawn as a badass vampire hunter that poses as a cable repairman in order to get into a bloodsucker’s lair. The film is populated with jokes about nostalgia that seem to be Heckerling commenting on the fleeting nature of contemporary culture. Goody goes to record store and asks the clerk if they have any James Cagney posters and he has no idea who she’s talking about. When she mentions Paul Newman he replies, “Oh, the salad dressing guy!” Heckerling clearly yearns for simpler times and conveys a love of classic movies as she intercuts throughout the film clips from the era of silent cinema.
Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter look like they’re having a lot of fun playing fashionable vampires. Goody resembles Cher from Clueless if she had become a vampire. The two of them have excellent comic timing and play well off each other. Veteran comedian Richard Lewis and Silverstone make for a surprisingly good couple and the sweet romance between their characters has a faint whiff of sadness because of their age difference and that he’s married to someone who’s dying.
Vamps won’t be regarded as a classic like Fast Times or Clueless – some of the jokes are a little too obvious and fall flat while Sigourney Weaver plays her character way too broadly, chewing up the scenery. The problem is that the film feels disjointed tonally with hit and miss gags. The best part is the Goody/Danny romantic subplot, which is the most interesting and engaging aspect of the film. That being said, Vamps is a pleasantly amusing comedy that is fun if not forgettable.
That being said, the film’s vibrant color scheme does come across rather nicely on this Blu-Ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that is just fine.