This past Halloween was pretty exciting as far as animated features goes: Frankenweenie, Paranorman, Hotel Transylvania- if a trip to my local Cineplex didn’t cost roughly the same as the Gross National Product of Latvia; I imagine there could have been some seriously great memories made with a tub of popcorn and a warm hoodie. But alas, I digress. In my case, Hotel Transylvania had to wait for the home release and for the most part, it was quite enjoyable if entirely inappropriate seasonally.
Hotel Transylvania is the $85-million dollar, 91-minute PG rated animated film rumored to have been in development for an abnormally long (even for an animated feature) six-years. The end result lavishly uses the CG medium to reflect the direction and style of animator/director Genndy Tartakovsky. If that means nothing to you, imagine a slightly caricaturized version of the classic movie monsters complete with clichés and accents a plenty.
While Sony’s Image Works division rarely threatens Pixar or DreamWork’s supremacy in the computer animated realm, the visuals are solid here with a good deal of background detail present that almost demands multiple viewings so fully absorb.
The story, while certainly adequate, sadly never reaches much deeper than the previews alluded: In 1895, Count Dracula builds a resort in Transylvania, hidden away from the humanity, as a place for monsters to crash but also as a sanctuary to raise his daughter Mavis.
Fast forward to present day and old Drac is busy inviting friends (among these Frankenstein and his wife Eunice; Wayne and Wanda werewolves; Griffin, the invisible man; Murray, the mummy; Bigfoot, among others) to the hotel so as to celebrate the 118th birthday of Mavis (18 in human years).
Just as the party is about to get underway, a dopey 21-year-old human named Jonathan happens to stumble upon the hotel. Monsters, it turns out, fear humans the way, well, the way humans fear monsters. Ordinarily the Count would likely kick a wandering human to the curb (possibly short on a few corpuscles) but complicating matters is Mavis, who falls in love with the lad quite unaware that he is in fact a human.
Undoubtedly the film’s greatest strength lies in its casting: Adam Sandler as Dracula, Andy Samberg as Jonathan, Kevin James as Frankenstein, David Spade as the Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi as Wolfman and on and on. One really gets the feeling that these guys could be reading random pages from a phonebook and elicit the giggles. That said, everyone plays really well off each other but never reach the type of comedic crescendo I sort of expected going in. Most of the humor is actually derived from visual gags (Frankenstein’s lower half releases some gas that gets blames on the unsuspecting Mummy, a female skeleton gets caught showering and tries to cover up despite having no physical features to hide and so on).
Mark Mothersbaugh’s upbeat score is quite appropriate; reminding the viewer in even the darkest moments of the piece that the focal point here is laughter and silliness with love as the backdrop. The ending of the film does break out into a cheesy musical number that some may find a bit much but in all the audio is right up there with the visuals in terms of propelling the prose along.
In all Hotel Transylvania is a success on most every level. It lacks that Pixar creativity factor that continually results in the studio’s showering in awards but it’s solid through and through with visual charm that will keep the young ones entertained and enough layered wit for adults to enjoy as well.
Star Rating: I felt a small victory at the end of Hotel Transylvania, for it proved that I was right to hold out hope for an Adam Sandler movie that worked. Having only this past June appeared in the God-awful raunch fest That’s My Boy, he now comes through with a pleasant, lighthearted, funny 3D animated comedy that’s suitable for the whole family. Perhaps this is a genre he’s better suited for, not just as an actor but also as a producer … more