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'Vampire Academy' has some bite, but not much

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 7:20 p.m.

The various young blood-suckers of “Vampire Academy” belong to warring clans, with a royal family, “guardians” of those royals, silver daggers they use to kill each other and varying degrees of sensitivity to the harsh light of day.

And, just in case there's still confusion: “They don't sparkle, either.”

It's a self-aware horror / action comedy, first in a possible franchise (sigh) based on Richelle Mead's books, that sits somewhere on the border between “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Jokes? They bought those in bulk. Line after somewhat-amusing line, most of them delivered in a near-slurred blur by the snarky half-human novice guardian Rose, played by “Suite Life” alum Zoey Deutch.

Rose is guarding Lissa (Lucy Fry), who is a princess, so, naturally, she has a British accent. They're bonded, those two. Telepathic.

Rose and Lissa have been on the run from school, but St. Vladimir finally nabs them and brings them back...

Wait, “Saint” Vladimir?

That's right. Mead's books have student vampires learning of their patron saint, hearing Eastern Orthodox-ish sermons in chapel, in between the usual instances of high-school hazing, mean girl-ing and make-out sessions. And managing one's magic.

Gabriel Byrne is an elder something or other at the school, Joely Richardson is the scolding queen who lords over them, and Olga Kurylenko the headmistress who “could have been a model.”

Set in Montana, filmed in the U.K.'s castle-country, the school is the only place Lissa can be protected from the Strigoi, evil vampires who want to interrupt the royal line.

Deutch tends to rush her lines, but a leggy, sitcom-trained 18 year-old is what the role called for — the sort of girl who can make an “Ewww” face after handing the princess a tissue to wipe off blood from a “feeder,” a human vampire fan who submits to the occasional neck-suck to keep the pale ones in the pink.

Sexy, PG-13 sassy, flip and funnier than it has a right to be, written by Daniel Waters (“Heathers”) and directed by his brother Mark (“Mean Girls”), “Vampire Academy” still feels slapdash, perhaps under-budgeted — sort of a hit-or-miss, low-risk trial balloon to see if “Twilight Fever” has, indeed, faded. We'll know by sunrise.

Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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