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'Vampire Academy' review: In this class, they're dead last

Zoey Deutch in

Zoey Deutch in "Vampire Academy." Credit: The Weinstein Company / Laurie Sparham

"Vampire Academy," as you've surely guessed from the title, is set in a high school whose students are fanged bloodsuckers, though they face the same bullying and gossiping that mortal teenagers do. It's "Twilight" as directed by Mark Waters, of "Mean Girls." It's an idea that might have been intriguing 15 years ago, before those movies existed.

Written by Waters' brother, Daniel Waters, from Richelle Mead's 2007 novel, "Vampire Academy" arrives in theaters when even "Twilight" fans seem tired of "Twilight." Commendably but belatedly, "Vampire Academy" injects a little girl power into the genre by focusing not on romance but on its two heroines. They are vampire Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), one of the royal Moroi, and her sworn guardian, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a half-human vampire known as a Dhampir. At St. Vladimir's Academy, they bond -- often telepathically -- against cyberbullying and slut-shaming, but they sense a bigger menace: the Strigoi, a race of "bad" vampires.

"When it comes to us, weird doesn't begin to cover it," Rose tells us. That line is a good example of the film's overall tone: snarky, self-mocking and self-congratulatory all at once, though not quite smart, original or funny enough to pull it off.

The actors seem to have been chosen for their resemblance to other, more famous faces. Deutch, as the flippant Rose, does a passable Ellen Page; Fry, an Australian affecting a posh British accent, vaguely recalls Emily Blunt; Dominic Sherwood, as one-dimensional pretty boy Christian Ozera, does an excellent Robert Pattinson. Slumming on the sidelines are Gabriel Byrne, rather amusing as the patriarch Victor Dashkov, and Joely Richardson as the icy Queen Tatiana. Olga Kurylenko ("Skyfall") plays Headmistress Kirova, a role that Helena Bonham Carter might recognize.

"Vampire Academy" seems irrelevant right out of the gate. It can't quite function as a spoof of "Twilight" -- which was already hilarious -- but it wants to be something more than a rip-off. Over the closing credits you'll hear a tuneful cover version of Bauhaus' Goth-rock classic "Bela Lugosi's Dead," by the band Chvrches. It, too, feels well-intentioned but unnecessary.

PLOT In an exclusive vampire high school, a princess and her guardian face mean cliques and bigger dangers. RATING PG-13

CAST Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Gabriel Byrne


PLAYING AT Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE Not quite a spoof, but more a cover version, of "Twilight." Like we needed that.


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