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MOVIE REVIEW: 'Fright Night' remake low on the scare-scale

In this film image released by Disney-DreamWorks Pictures, Anton Yelchin is shown in a scene from the horror film "Fright Night." (AP Photo/DreamWorks Pictures)

In this film image released by Disney-DreamWorks Pictures, Anton Yelchin is shown in a scene from the horror film "Fright Night." (AP Photo/DreamWorks Pictures)

Fright Night

(R)

2 out of 4 stars

While not considered a classic, the original "Fright Night" from 1985 was good enough to turn a nice profit and garner considerable cult status.

This remake hasn't drawn the kind of outrage usually heard from devotees of original films, and technical advancements over the last quarter-century somewhat validate, if not warrant, a do-over. That said, making this movie was still mostly a bad idea.

The principal culprit responsible for the movie's below-average rating is not the screenplay, the direction, the special effects or the acting; all are completely serviceable. It is the studio's insistence on presenting it in 3-D. The fact that this is a horror/action/adventure flick makes the idea of 3-D acceptable if not desired, but like so many movies like it released in the past year (the last "Harry Potter" installment among them), this "Fright Night" was shot in 2-D and sloppily altered in post-production to accommodate 3-D.

There are exactly three points in the movie -- totaling about 20 seconds -- where the 3-D earns its keep and one of those scenes is a chunk of concrete going through a window -- big whoop.

Under the best circumstances ("Avatar" and most animated movies), 3-D is iffy. Force-fitting it after the fact for a live-action film taking place mostly at night and indoors is moronic and money-grubbing at its worst.

Hideous visuals aside, this "Fright Night" also isn't all that scary and certainly not as imposing as the original. As vampire movies go, it's slightly more dangerous than the most graphic scene in the "Twilight" franchise. There's no nudity, just a little blood and most of the death, violence and carnage is handled off screen. It barely cuts it as an "R" rated feature. Sensation-seeking teens will be sorely disappointed.

The plot is basically the same as the first. Reformed geek Charley (Anton Yelchin) can't believe it when his still geeky friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) insists that Charley's new neighbor Jerry (Colin Ferrell) is a vampire. Ed's constant badgering and nudging is making Charley look lame in front of his new jock buddies and ultra-hot girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots).

After not seeing Ed around for a while Charley starts to take his proclamations seriously and becomes a believer. When he tells his mother Jane (Toni Collette) what's happening she blows him off, mostly because she's, you know, lonely and Jerry is so well developed. Charley's new obsession also starts taking a toll on the Amy Situation. Charley is not the kind of guy who can ignore a girl like Amy for too long.

Supplying virtually all of the movie's much-needed humor is David Tennant ("Doctor Who") as Peter Vincent, the character played in the first by the late Roddy McDowell. Instead of a washed-up nebbish actor, Tennant's Vincent is a flamboyant Las Vegas headliner -- kind of cross between David Copperfield and Gene Simmons -- with an occult shtick. Vincent -- never far from a bottle of green liqueur -- also dismisses Charley's rants but changes his tune when his stable of Eastern European babes begins to dwindle.

If DreamWorks (now overseen by Disney) had thought "Fright Night" had legs, it wouldn't have dumped it in the wasteland that is late August. If this movie turns any kind of profit, the studio suits do back-flips and set in motion the inevitable sequel, hopefully with the Vincent character as the lead. (Touchstone/DreamWorks)