Ghoulish Hotel Transylvania a Cartoonish Misfire
To protect his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and to create a sanctuary for the supernatural, the one and only vampire Dracula (Adam Sandler) has opened Hotel Transylvania, and for over a hundred years the place has proven to be an undead hotspot safe from the influence of the human world. But now, with his little girl turning 118, intrepid adventure-seeking human Jonathan (Andy Samberg) has stumbled upon the resort, its owner utterly clueless how to both keep the young man alive as well as stop him from blabbing about what heís discovered.
Mavis, Dracula and Jonathan in Hotel Transylvania © Sony Pictures
Where to begin. So, in all fairness, the new computer animated family comedy Hotel Transylvania isnít without its charms. The early scenes charting Draculaís careful (and caring) upbringing of Mavis is surprisingly sweet, effectively setting the stage for the events to come in a way that caught me a tiny bit by surprise. The animation, recalling both the stop-motion theatrics of Rankin-Bass and the hand-drawn Saturday morning aesthetics of Hanna-Barbara, is excellent, and there were plenty of moments throughout the movie where my eyes were suitably dazzled.
Thatís the good news. The bad? The script is a lost cause, filled with sophomoric toilet humor below even the lowest Disney Channel or Cartoon Network standards. Structurally, itís also a bit of a mess, the central dynamics never rising too far above the humdrum or the status quo to make them anywhere near as exciting or as endearing as they absolutely must be for the movie to be even anything close to a success. Iím not sure what the writers were going for (there are five credited, two for the script, three for the story) but they fail to achieve anything of merit, and by the time the movie reached its musical monster mash of a conclusion there was little that happened beforehand worthy of remembering.
The central conceit is that Dracula decides to disguise Jonathan as a junior Frankenstein (much to the chagrin of the actual one, energetically voiced by Kevin James) in order to keep his guests from knowing the guyís true identity, the young man falling for Mavis (and vice-versa) in the process. Problem is, the romance is flat and unappealing, the mistaken identity humor is troubled and rarely funny and the friendship that supposedly develops between vampire and human never germinates as richly as it should. Everything is flat and by the numbers, and while the animation is suitably glorious and the vocal work relatively strong the fact no one has anything of interest to say or anything worthwhile to do is a glaring problem just about nothing can compensate for.
There are some songs, but the feel a bit half-baked and not fully developed enough to be as funny as Iím sure Sandler and company wanted them to be. There are a few solid gags involving a continually hungry gremlin, but her bright bits of comic relief are few and far between. I also enjoyed a sort of out of nowhere bit involving Dracula, Jonathan and a room full of flying tables, but the sequence, while entertaining, is so disconnected from the rest of the film it ends up not adding as much to the proceedings as it potentially could have under stronger direction and a better script.
The movie is filled to the brim with solid vocal performers including Sandler regulars like David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz and Rob Riggle, while CeeLo Green and Fran Drescher also lend their talents to the party allowing for a few bits of verbal goodness impossible to dismiss. It isnít enough, none of it adding up to anything substantial as the movie just goes through the motions heading to a forgone conclusion of sacrifice, respect, understanding and forgiveness blatantly foreshadowed during the aforementioned, and pretty darn nifty, prologue.
I donít have anything else to add. Iím sure some little kids might get a kick out of Hotel Transylvania, the movie certain to do just fine when it makes its way to Blu-ray and DVD sometime next year. But I canít suggest families check-in at a theatre to watch it, the movie just too simplistically derivative to warrant the ticket price.
Film Rating: ÍÍ (out of 4)