You’ve seen it all before: a boy with a special destiny tangles with the occult and gets sucked out of his normal life and into the twilight realm of the supernatural, in the process setting the stage for paranormal war between good and evil. Actually, you probably have seen this before — and I don’t just mean in Darren Shan’s series of youth-targeted horror novels (from which this Paul Weitz–directed film is adapted).
To me, Cirque is a kiddie version of Night Watch (Russia’s modern-day-set Lord of the Rings equivalent), and despite a charisma-less teenage lead (Chris Massoglia) and a story that somehow both hurtles and drags through its condensed exposition. it has its charms — among them a Tim Burton–esque design flair, sassy dialogue, and an ensemble cast that features John C. Reilly as a curmudgeonly vampire, Salma Hayek as a bearded lady, and Patrick Fugit as “Evra the Snake Boy.”
Harry Potter this ain’t. But it’s fun all the same.