Review: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ is furrier than you think, but not much better
I watched Hotel Transylvania because I have a weakness for Gothic archetypes, not because I was expecting it to be any good. It is a movie not only starring Adam Sandler, but even produced by him. Well, I can say this is the best thing Adam Sandler has done in years, but that still does not matter much on the good to bad scale.
I did not watch this movie because I intended to review it for Flayrah; about halfway through the climax, in which the movie’s protagonist takes the form of a talking bat and sticks that way until the denouement, I realized furries might want to know that. I mean, yeah, werewolf in the trailers and TV spots and all, but if you decide to see this movie, see it for the cute talking vampire bats.
Not much else reason.
Story and characters
The protagonist of the film is none other than Dracula, a vampire hundreds of years old. You might have heard of him. This Dracula is voiced by Adam Sandler doing a Bela Lugosi impression. He also once met his wife in Hawaii (what the hundreds of year old vampire from Transylvania was doing in Hawaii is never explained), and they had a single daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez).
Dracula has spent the last century and change raising his daughter as a single parent, which already makes this the single most mature role Sandler has ever played, and that’s not an age joke. He also runs a secluded hotel designed for one reason; to give monsters like himself a refuge away from humans. His daughter is turning 118, so they all get together for a giant monster party to celebrate.
Unfortunately, the party is crashed by an adventurous young human, Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg), who, of course, falls for Mavis. Mavis wants to see the world outside the hotel, while Dracula wants to keep her locked up. Johnny, quickly disguised as “Jonny Stein” (Frankenstein’s arm’s distant cousin), soon becomes the new, fun monster at the party, turning Mavis’s head while Dracula tries desperately to get rid of him. Eventually, there is a scene involving flying tables that changes Dracula’s mind about Johnny, but various deceptions are starting to pile up so that we can have a third act.
Joining the cast, and not making much of an impact other than this is a monster movie starring Dracula, so let’s get some other famous movie monsters, too, are Steve Buscemi as a werewolf, Kevin James as Frankenstein’s monster, CeeLo Green as a mummy and David Spade as an invisible man. The creature from the Black Lagoon always gets the shaft in these things. They appear (or in the case of the invisible man, disappear), tell some jokes and that’s about it.
The animation is perfectly fine, and clips along at a fine pace. It is a 3D movie, and I actually saw it in 3D, but I can’t remember being particularly immersed by it.
This is director Genndy Tartakovsky’s first debut as a cinematic director; his television work is mostly traditional animation. He is known for his interesting character designs; unfortunately, those designs work better in traditional animation. They are mostly lost on CGI, and have none of the usual Tartakovsky look, but come out mostly generic. A bit of traditional animation appears at the end of film over the credits; it gives a glimpse of what Tartakovsky’s film might have looked like if he was working in his usual two dimensions.
The only human character design that really popped was Mavis. On the furry character front, I can respect the werewolf designs, but don’t particularly like them myself. The vampire bat forms of both Dracula and Mavis, though, are much better.
The humor is really aimed squarely at children in the movie; mostly frenetic sight gags without much going for them (though Frankenstein’s high dive works for me). There is a bit of toilet humor, but never nasty, always implied, never shown. Despite most of the humor being aimed at kids, I did find some of the jokes a bit inappropriate for the intended audience; however, as the intended audience’s parents probably don’t read their movie reviews on Flayrah, I’ll move along.
The movie ends on a big song; I actually rather enjoyed it, especially the lyrics “like Simba and Nala in The Lion King.”
I haven’t really come out and said it, but this is actually a pretty terrible movie. That being said, I enjoyed it. Sometimes I like trashy movies, and this movie pushes my “trashy movie” buttons. So, if the trailers set your “trashy movie I might like” sense to tingling, go watch it.
Otherwise, you should watch something else. The Lion King is highly recommended.