A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vampire Dog includes some silly slapstick action with nothing scary and no serious consequences. The farcical events include exaggerated falls, a van presumably on fire with sparks and smoke, a drum hitting a man's crotch, and the relentless dog-nappers' stepping into messy misadventures (covered in eggs and flour, turned into cats and dogs). There's some potty humor: A dog pees to start an electrical fire, and there's some farting and a poop joke. Mean girls and boys taunt and tease the hero for much of the film, calling him names ("weirdo," "nerd," "spaz") and circulating an semi-embarrassing picture of him. The film includes positive-but-trite messages about standing up to bullies and believing in yourself.
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What's the story?
A new town, a new school, and a bit of stage fright find young drummer Ace (Collin MacKechnie) teased and tormented by the mean kids. Even Skylar (Julia Sarah Stone), the one friend he's made, is afraid to stand up to them. And Ace's mother, the music teacher who's been hired to try to save the beleaguered school, is a source of embarrassment for him, too. The arrival of Fang (voiced by Norm MacDonald) changes everything. Left to Ace by his recently deceased Transylvanian grandfather, Fang is a centuries-old vampire dog who speaks, can appear and disappear in a flash, and who needs Jell-O (not blood) to survive. Fang is determined to make Ace's life better. Will the magical dog be able to help Ace make friends, overcome his stage fright, and drum in the Battle of the Bands? Can the two of them save "Lugosi School" from closure? And, to save himself, can Fang outwit two greedy villains who want the adorable dog's DNA to perfect their anti-aging cream?
Is it any good?
Some appealing pre-teen actors, a cute dog, and some fun (but amateurish) special effects can't save this predictable, logic-impaired movie. The corny adult bad gal and guy who mug, strut, and overact with gusto join the mean, one-dimensional schoolgirls and schoolboys in an effort to create tension and conflict. It's too broad to really work. And the survival of a school music program plays a part in the story, but the music is of such poor quality that it's hard to root for saving it.
Still, kids who like slapstick villains and a talking dog and who haven't yet developed a taste for "excellent" or even "good," may like it. VAMPIRE DOG is basically a harmless time-filler with a few laughs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Ace handled the bullying and teasing he encountered in school. What are some other positive ways to deal with people who are hurtful?
How did Skylar change? What is peer pressure? How difficult is it to give up being considered popular or "cool" in order to do the right thing?
Think about the different approaches to teaching shown by Ace's mom and the school principal. Which do you think worked best? Why?
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