Hotel Transylvania (2012) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA rated: PG for rude humor and scary images
Running time: 91 min.
Cast (voices): Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green, Jon Lovitz, Chris Parnell, Robert Smigel, Rob Riggle
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenplay: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel
Review published November 1, 2012
Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of the acclaimed animated TV series such as "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Samurai Jack", makes his feature film debut as director of Hotel Transylvania, a mild but well-produced animated comedy aimed mostly at the younger set. It bursts with a certain visual inventiveness that never stops, and an inherent silliness that will likely win over all but the staunchest of scrooges, even if the laugh quotient is a bit on the low side for a film with this many gags and comedians behind the scenes. With the exception of painting Monsters as the heroes and humans as the villains, most of the story is fairly by the numbers, and the structure of the film itself, complete with all the characters singing a pop tune (a hideous one slathered with auto-tune), is derivative of other recent examples in the genre the last few years.
The plot centers around Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler, You Don't Mess with the Zohan), a widower after his beloved wife ends up murdered at the hands of an unruly human mob, and his tenacious efforts to protect his only daughter, Mavis (Gomez, Ramona and Beezus), from suffering the same fate. For nearly 118 years, Drac has kept Mavis in his care, shielding her from the outside world by converting a giant castle into a large hotel meant for other monsters in the heart of Transylvania, away from the dastardly humans and their non-understanding ilk. For each of Mavis's birthdays, there is a big bash at the hotel that draws them all, and this is especially big, as it is her 'coming out' party when a vampire girl turns into a vampire woman. Mavis wants to see the Paradise where her parents met, but her father will do ANYTHING to keep her under his care.
A wrench is thrown into the works when a bold 21-year-old backpacker named Jonathan (Samberg, Friends with Benefits) manages to find the place, which he initially takes to think is a fantastically cool costume party. Drac is not amused, but finds himself having to indulge the lad's presence for fear of being caught trying to fool Mavis from an earlier fake display to keep her fearing the human world, so he allows the boy to continue to stay on the premises on the condition that he pretend to be one of the monsters. However, it's 'Zing' at first sight when Mavis and Jonathan meet, with Dracula having to keep them apart or come to terms that his daughter is all grown up now.
Good character design and inventive 'camera' work bolsters the comical look and visual zip of the film, which is given good production values and maintains an amiable comic tone, even though the film isn't close to knee-slappingly funny at any particular moment. However, there are a few moments that should make audiences smile, such as the poking fun of the Twilight series and their painting of the old monsters as pained romantics, and while it never aspires to rise above the surface pleasures, it is a worthwhile experience for the animation-loving crowd. The voice acting is spotty, particularly Adam Sandler as Count Dracula, adopting an accent that is supposed to sound somewhat Eastern European, but ends up much of the time sounding like Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.
Hotel Transylvania will likely be entertaining among kids, who will likely identify with the colorful and goofy characters, as well as much of the juvenile humor. Creature feature enthusiasts may also appreciate some of the humor directed at some of their favorite classic horror movie characters, like Frankenstein (the Monster, not the doctor), the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, and many others. .
©2012 Vince Leo