Film Review – Hotel Transylvania
Don’t be thrown by the tender notes hit upon in the opening moments of Hotel Transylvania. You’ll be graciously rewarded for your patience when the first fart joke hits at about minute three.
Adam Sandler provides the iffy voice of Dracula, quickly established as the over-protective father of Mavis (Selena Gomez), who is about to celebrate her 118th birthday. His prickly nature is explained in a surprisingly dark opening scene in which his wife is killed at the hands of humans. This leads him to create Hotel Transylvania, a “five-star resort” where he and all of his monster buddies can reside without fear of human run-ins.
A who’s who of Happy Madison day players round out the cast of goofy ghouls. Kevin James is the clumsy but well-meaning Frankenstein, David Spade is the Invisible Man, and Jon Lovitz is barely identifiable in his role as Quasimodo. Throw in a dash of Fran Drescher and a woefully out of his element CeeLo Green as the Mummy, and we’ve got ourselves a movie. Or, at the very least, a bitchin’ set of Happy Meal toys.
Mavis has every reason to be excited for her birthday, as Daddy Dracula promises her the opportunity to go out and see the “real world.” 118 years marks her graduation to adulthood, and she’s eager to leave her comfy homestead for the first time to catch a glimpse of human interaction. Due to some shady dealings perpetrated by her well-intentioned father, though, it isn’t exactly the pleasant outing she had hoped for. She’s content to live the rest of her life in the remote hotel—until the unexpected arrival of a human/backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg).
Affable, somewhat dimwitted, and instantly smitten with young Mavis, Samberg as Jonathan provides the movie’s biggest laughs by far. His entire demeanor suggests he wandered off the set of a stoner movie and into the hotel. (After all, how often does a character in a kid’s movie drop both Dave Matthews and Slipknot by name?) Dracula is alarmed and displeased by the young man’s arrival and disguises him as an indistinct monster in order to shield his identity as a human to the other monsters. Hilarity attempts to ensue.
Hotel Transylvania is inoffensive and breezy enough. For a movie with this many characters, though, it’s unfortunate no one outside of the three central characters leaves any sort of distinctive or lasting impression. Consider the potential here. So many iconic movie monsters under one roof! Add to that the impressive résumé of first-time feature director Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack) and we should have ourselves a home run. But outside of Jonathan and an inspired gag or two surrounding the Invisible Man, the jokes are pretty tired (see second sentence of review). I like to imagine the writer’s room sounded a little like this: “Less plot, more farts! What’s that? We hit our limit on fart jokes? Okay then, uninspired song and dance number! Auto-Tune it to the point of incomprehension! Annnd lunch.”
While I’m taking stabs at a harmless children’s movie, let me add that the 3-D here is underwhelming and unnecessary. I’ve called shenanigans on the shamelessness of 3-D and 3-D conversion before, but this strikes me as a particularly poor outing. (And money grab.) There are certainly worse ways to spend a weekend afternoon with the kids, but you may want to cinch that coin purse until Pixar’s next outing.
Final Grade: C