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.