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Hotel Transylvania Review: Adam Sandler Vants To Suck Your Brains Out

By Agent Bedhead | Film Reviews | September 29, 2012 | Comments ()


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Chalk this one up to another decent idea that fell victim to poor execution. Hollywood currently has another (vastly superior) movie about an overprotective father in rotation, but Hotel Transylvania has decided to jump into the fray as well. Let's do this, short and sweet style.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), are at odds. She's just turned 118 years old, which is a very magical number for many reasons. Unfortunately for Dracula, it primarily means that Mavis is allowed to do her own thing. In the hopes of distracting Mavis (and saving her from the terrible outside world), Dracula arranges a massive birthday party with all of the hotel occupants. These creatures all live together on a rotating basis in a castle that Dracula built when Mavis' mother was killed back in the 1890s by a torch-wielding mob. In the aftermath of his sorrow, Dracula created this haven of a hotel where only monsters are allowed to reside, and no humans ever know it even exists. That is, until a young human, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), stumbles upon the establishment. He and Mavis quickly take a shining (or a "zing") to each other, and I think you can guess what comes next.

Unfortunately, none of the monsters decide to kill Jonathan on sight because -- let's face it -- this kid is a little asshole, really. This Dracula is one of those blasted vegetarian vampires too, but (thankfully) it's not for moral reasons. He's merely watching his waistline, and humans are too fattening. To be fair, daddy vampire grows quite offended when he happens to catches a few seconds of Twilight on television and beholds sparkling Edward Cullen. Sadly, this moment is the best the film has to offer. The movie aims to pokes fun at monster genre conventions but falls flat in a green cloud of fart jokes.

Director Genndy Tartakovsky, who helms his first feature film here but has plenty of experience with Cartoon Network's "Powerpuff Girls" and "Samurai Jack," drops the ball with Hotel Transylvania by presenting a lackluster monster movie for kids that could have been tons of kooky fun for all but only succeeds in entertaining the most undiscriminating of young ones. One would also expect the film's two screenwriters -- Robert Smigel (of "Ambiguously Gay Duo" fame) and Peter Baynham (Borat) -- to present at least a bit of subversion, but no. Hotel Transylvania is not a clever movie at all. The comedy that does come through is very physical in a slapstick and gimmicky way and also largely rests upon the shoulders of sight gags involving the hotel's various monsters (such as the Invisible Man, voiced by David Spade, losing his pants). Other inhabitants of the hotel include Frankenstein (Kevin James); Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), who looks like a rat now; and a Mummy (CeeLo Green). There's also a Wolfman (Steve Buscemi) and his wife, Wanda (Molly Shannon), as well as an Abominable Snowman in the mix too. It's a melee of characters, but none of them really get the script time to develop in any way. Ultimately, humans and monsters finally learn to get along and not be so "racist" against each other. Yes, that's the term that's used in reference to the species war.

Otherwise, the voice work is okay with Buscemi doing the heavy lifting. The man is simply excellent at playing world-weary characters, and his werewolf chasing a huge pack of his own cubs around the hotel is enough to exhaust any parent who witnesses the battle. Meanwhile, Sandler isn't quite as nasal as he comes off in his live-action movies, but Sandberg plays an appropriately irritating human character, whose sheer douchiness defies the attraction Mavis feels for him and the fact that the monsters don't just decide to dispense with formalities and give him the boot. I guess that ending would have guaranteed a very short movie though. With that said, the visuals do look great with the characters almost appearing as floating Halloween door decorations set against rich interior backdrops.

Between this movie, Paranorman, and The Master, I've quickly reached critical mass this season when it comes to dramatic scenes involving toilets, and these Hotel Transylvania monsters fart a lot. When Sandler started busting out some rap lyrics, I new the jig was up. Maybe Frankenweenie will change things up next week, but so far, we're 0-2 in the monster-related animation battle this year.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • idiosynchronic

    Follow up review:

    my 8 year-old, who's in a phase of anxiety, chose this movie over the other two or three currently out for obvious reasons. It's cute, as my wife would say, but nothing worth getting worked up over because of it's failures or successes. It's disappointing as a fan of Tartokovsky & Smiegel, but it's obvious when something trademark of theirs appears. I suspect I know who had script notes and approval mods, but I'd love to know who stuck what garbage in where. The flying table scene for instance was hallmark Tartokovsky - it should have been a fucking disaster but was fun and touching in whole.

    In short: I've spent 90 minutes in far worse childrens' movies recently. At least you don't need drugs in order to tolerate or enjoy this one.

  • Johnny

    I feel this review is over intellectualizing a light fare kids movie

  • Ben

    I'm so torn over this movie, I love the hell out of everything Tartavosky's done the man is a brilliant animator and an animation director. But god he deserves better then Adam Sandler shit. I hope this movie does well only because Tartavosky deserves it and I want to see him stretch his legs with a good action/adventure animated film.

  • True_Blue

    #$%% it--I love Samurai Jack, so I was hoping it was better than it had seemed in the trailers. This goes under "movies to catch at the dollar theater if there's nothing else to do on a Saturday afternoon".

  • Candee

    I honestly didn't think it looked like that bad of a movie. Ya know, it's a kids movie. And I love monster/halloweeny type stuff, but I also had no idea that Adam Sandler was Dracula until a couple of days ago. That immediately turned me off, though.

  • The Wanderer

    Based on the trailer, I think "Mad Monster Party" was superior. Ah, good times . . .

  • special snowflake

    I'm sorry to break it to you guys, but Darlene is the only commenter here that realizes why the criticism needs to stop, right here, right now: Adam Sandler is THE voice actor of our generation! I had an inkling of his potential with that animated Hannukah film a few years back, but "Hotel Transylvania" has confirmed it - Sandler establishes a new standard of excellence in vocal characterizations that leaves no doubt as to where his true talent lies.
    His limitless potential has been wasted on the big screen, too physically handsome to be accepted (for what is otherwise a unique depth of acting ability) in portrayals of 'everyman' characters, and too cerebral in his story ideas and brilliant screenwriting skills for today's entertainment collective to comprehend!
    For an artist so far ahead of his time, Sandler's masterworks are way too exquisitely crafted for contemporary industry talents to properly translate into the limited film vocabulary that currently exists, leaving the filmgoing audience cheated by their futile attempts to capture even a fraction of Sandler's complex, devastating comic genius. And funny voices.
    I call this the Orson Welles Dichotomy - much as Adam Sandler's “Happy Madison” managed to overwhelmingly succeed in connecting with the unpredictable zeitgeist of 90's pre-ironic comedy sensibilities and, in the process, redefine the modern comedy film genre, an achievement that overshadows all of his subsequent efforts, so could Mr. Welles not replicate the ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ universal critical acclaim that “Citizen Kane” garnered for it’s redefining of dramatic cinema. The parallels are almost too eerie: two clearly multi-talented, visionary artists whose genius the rest of the world couldn’t quite keep up with, two singular auteurs who stagnate under the expectations of 'more of the same' when they have already transcended, and abandoned, far greater works of such sophistication that an impatient and less-evolved audience has ignored.
    But this revelatory vocal performance by Mr. Sandler, so late in his sporadically-brilliant career, outdoes even the great Mr. Welles’ iconic 'Paul Masson' wine commercials that concluded his remarkable body of work.
    For Adam Sandler to ever again pursue ANYTHING other than the realization of quality, accomplished vocal performances in animated films, Lifetime true-crime episodes and Saturday morning cartoons - be it writing, producing, directing, filmmaking, comedy albums/specials/music parodies, an ounce of creative control or ANY of the myriad other talents this man has already mastered in his brief existence on this earth would be an artistic crime of such tragic proportions as to disappoint and deprive the whole of humanity.
    And I, my friends, do not believe that Adam Sandler wants to disappoint humanity.
    I implore you all to support this bold, new and potentially history-changing plea, this sincere and heartfelt appeal to our National Treasure, Mr. Adam Sandler, to forsake all previous and future pursuits of artistic creativity involving public exposure and devote your remaining years exclusively to the formidable new frontier of supremacy in the carefully-scripted, behind-the-scenes rendering of vocal characterizations for stuff that will surely enrich our lives and provide an eloquent, dignified epilogue to an extraordinary, unique career.
    Make your voices heard!

  • BWeaves

    Hi Adam. I didn't know you read Pajiba.

  • frank247

    I'm don't think you are being sincere.

  • Sandberg...I caught that one.

  • idiosynchronic

    This looked like a trainwreck in the trailers - too bad it is.

  • googergieger

    "Chalk this one up to another decent idea"

    And you lost me.

  • Darlene

    I saw this today in a packed theatre with my 9 year old and my husband, and we all laughed and loved it. Was it light fare? Yes. It was still a great family movie.

  • NynjaSquirrel

    Why is Adam Sandler still popular? Anyone? For that matter - why was Adam Sandler ever popular?

  • BAM

    Besides the couple movies Rooks mentioned, "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" were distinctly formative during middle/high school for pretty much all the guys I knew growing up. They didn't age well, IMO, but its a nostalgia thing... and the reason he is still popular is because a lot of those people I grew up with didn't grow up. Get it?

  • Jezzer

    I've never found Adam Sandler funny. Certain comedians never gel with me, and I find I can tolerate comedians like Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and Jim Carrey a lot more in small doses in projects where they don't have full creative control.

  • Natallica

    I know that humor tropes change through the years and what is funny now may not be funny in 20 years. I'm also aware that some of those tropes are, indeed, still alive after 3 decades or more ("This is Spinal Tap" was made two years after I was born and it's one of my favorite comedies). However, I still get the impression 90's comedy (at least the mainstream part of it) really couldn't be able to continue it's impact on the new millenium. Take, for example, The Farrelly Brothers, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock or the "Scary movie" franchise. I don't say they we're all good, or even always good. But the success they got in the 90's never got replicated after the decade ended.

  • Rooks

    Legend has it there are people that liked him in "Wedding Singer". We all harboured hopes for a second after watching "Reign Over Me" and "Punch Drunk Love".

    What happened in between is the stuff that conspiracy theories featuring tinfoil hats and chemtrails are made of.

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