Hotel Transylvania (2012)

Featuring the Voices of: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Cee-Lo Green, Jon Lovitz, Brian George, Luenell, Chris Parnell, Rob Riggle, Paul Brittain.

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Rating: PG (for some rude humor, action and scary images.)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Home Video Release Date: TBD
North American Box Office: $TBD

Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, and Sony Pictures Releasing.

Written by: Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel (screenplay); Todd Durham, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman (story).

This review was originally published with The Rogue Valley Messenger.
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★1/2 (out of 5 stars)

After a dismal run of films which have seen diminishing returns at the box office and an increasingly annoyed fanbase, Adam Sandler shifts his gears from a writer and producer of his films to simply lending his voice to Hotel Transylvania, an inspired if not tired and formulaic haunted house adventure yarn, which focuses on laughs and jokes as opposed to chills and scares.

Sandler sounds engaged again voicing Dracula, the owner and operator of a luxurious hotel resort for monsters, which originated after Dracula, his wife, and young baby were attacked by villagers and lost their home in the 1890s.  Since then, Dracula’s resort is booming business and also allows him to keep Mavis under his watch all day and everyday.  Dracula is a tad bit overprotective and with Mavis turning 118, Dracula comes face to face with the promise he made to Mavis that upon reaching that age, she can visit the world outside of the hotel for the first time, without supervision.

Surrounding this consternation for Dracula are a who’s-who of monster legends, as The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster (identified here as Frankenstein…sigh), The Invisible Man, The Werewolf, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame all appear at the hotel, looking to catch up with Mavis and Dracula and celebrate Mavis’ big birthday party.  Mavis’ pushing for freedom becomes more disconcerting for Dracula when, for the first time since the hotel opened, a human being infiltrates the resort.  On a backpacking trip around Europe, carefree 21-year old Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles onto the hotel and straight into the clutches of Dracula.  Disguising him as Frankenstein’s Monster’s cousin, Dracula thinks he can keep the fear of a human being at the hotel under wraps.  However, Mavis and Jonathan strike up a connection and Dracula must face the realities that not only is his daughter no longer a child, but she may be falling for a human, who could very easily expose the secrecy that Dracula and his hotel have thrived with for more than a century.

Hotel Transylvania is a film that has no shortage of energy and exuberance.  Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, a veteran of television animation such as Star Wars: Clone Wars, Samurai Jack, and others, goes for broke with not only a robust ensemble of monsters to keep eyes darting around the screen, but enthusiastic voice work keeps things interesting from the likes of frequent Sandler collaborators Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, and Kevin James.

Over time however, Hotel Transylvania only can hide its issues for so long.  The storyline becomes very thin and there is next to nothing original to be found in the film’s 91 minutes.  The monsters afraid of humans, the young girl pressing for more independence and freedom at the anxiousness of an overprotective parent, the infantile bathroom jokes and flat, predictable dialogue all weigh the good down far below the bad.  I am curious how kids will respond to this because I see more savvy parents being bored and kids excited in equal measure, younger kids especially seeing these characters for likely the first time.  Another positive for younger viewers is that this is almost entirely a comedy and I cannot think of one effort to scare anyone.  Even a scene involving Mavis tentatively experiencing life outside of the hotel is far less intense than it initially appears to be.

Completely unnecessary in 3D, serving as merely the latest example as to why you should not bother for the additional expense, Hotel Transylvania tries desperately hard to win everyone over.  Despite its tired and wheezing plot, there is a decent amount of fun to be had here, just mostly early on.  By the end, there is nothing all that new or special with this Hotel and no matter how energetic everything looks and feels, this Hotel has far too many vacancies to earn only slightly more than a couple of stars.

SHOULD I SEE IT?
YES
  • Your kids will likely want to see this and unlike ParaNorman or the upcoming Frankenweenie, the visuals here are completely scare-free for little viewers.
  • Fans of Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez will be interested and the energy and enthusiasm will be infectious for a lot of viewers.
  • Horror fans, or those who like classic movie monsters like Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, etc. will probably like the idea of a place where all of these creatures can disappear for some rest and relaxation.
NO
  • Far from terrible, just so uninspired in its actual plot and dialogue, the potential is wasted with screenwriters Robert Smigel and Peter Baynham failing to develop anything original or novel the entire time.
  • The 3D presentation is flat and large stretches of the film can be easily watched without those glasses.
  • You will lose nothing waiting for this to play at home and can find other movies or activities to share as a family.