Initially, I expected infinitesimally little from Hotel Transylvania. Not only were we going to see the ancient shtick of having all the inconic horror monstrosities together for a feature film, but it was also the work of none other then Adam Sandler. Really, the only reason I saw it was to see if at least the animation was any good. Honestly, I don’t particularly regret seeing it.
Even though we have seen many classic movie monsters star in the same film (this dates back even to the days of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff) we’ve certainly never seen this many, and even though Adam Sandler is one of the producers as well as the star, this film actually allows him to use his “vocal comedy” in a way that suits it – voicing an animated picture. In Hotel Transylvania he plays Dracula, a vampire who is just as scared of humans as humans are of monsters, a phobia he shares with other monsters.
But he also runs a sanctuary for these monsters where no human can enter and disturb them – Hotel Transylvania, a resort that takes on the form of a gothic castle and is visited by monsters from just about every horror story out there. Among them are Frankenstein’s monster (Kevin James), whom they stupidly and incorrectly refer to simply as Frankenstein (people still haven’t learned?), Frankie’s wife Eunice (Fran Drescher, whose voice I’m not a large fan of), The Wolfman (Steve Buscemi) with family, a mummy named Murray (CeeLo Green), Quasimodo the cook (Jon Lovitz) and The Invisible Man (David Spade), though I question the decision to have a normal guy who’s just invisible carry the “monster” label. Why is he allowed amongst creatures who fear his kind? Are nude, invisible humans with glasses an exception?
Anyways, Dracula is planning to host a party at the hotel for his 118-year old daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), who thinks she might be getting too old for her father’s uneventful festivities. This all changes, though, when suddenly the hotel is visited by something truly disasterous and dreadful – a human being! A young man named Jonathan (Andy Samberg), to be exact. Before anyone finds out, Dracula takes action.
Disguised by Dracula as a Frankenstein-esque monster, he causes no fuss and actually helps create a much more enjoyable party for Mavis, whom he later falls in love with. Dracula disapproves at first, but soon learns to appreciate the guy. But there are monsters who sense Jonathan’s true colors and intend to expose him.
The film is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who created some of my childhood cartoons, such as the classic Dexter’s Laboratory. You can tell, because the Invisible Man has expressive spectacles, similar to those of Dexter and his father.
Hotel Transylvania is his debut as the director of a feature film and as such, it isn’t bad. True there are some noticable flaws, like Fran Drescher’s aforementioned voice, a somewhat tired story (a mix between Monsters Inc. and again, all those previous horror crossovers) and not that big a climax. But I did enjoy seeing how these mosters were used, how their post-popularity stories were written and how they interacted with one another. I know I said that the premise has been done many times, but there’s still something oddly fresh about this movie. One of my favourite scenes is when Jonathan is caught watching Twilight and a disgusted Dracula asks “THIS is how we’re represented today?”
Parents, if you want to take your children to see an original and smart movie this Halloween, I’d definitely chose ParaNorman over this one, but it is still an option and nothing harmful to the young ones. Admittedly, sometimes the slapstick, though mostly funny, gets a little too quick and in-your-face at times, putting the film dangerously near Lull Destruction territory and even for kids that might be a little bit exhausting. Then there is the issue of Sandler’s inability to refrain from toilet humour but it is limited and it is forgivable. The kids will probably approve.
All-in-all, Hotel Transylvania is a good comedy with likable characters, nice animation, a well-selected cast and surprisingly catchy original songs (despite too much auto-tune). It is proof that animation is possibly where Sandler’s future lies. Where it should lie, anyway. And remain.
By the way – no, I didn’t see this one in 3D (not even sure if it’s available for this film). I have my doubts as to how much it would have improved the viewing for me. The traditionally animated end credits sequence might’ve looked cool but I don’t know.