Mark Reviews Movies

Hotel Transylvania


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Cast: The voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, CeeLo Green, Jon Lovitz, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon

MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor, action and scary images)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 9/28/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 27, 2012

From top to bottom, Hotel Transylvania feels like a rush job. The script never moves beyond its concept—one with some potential—of gathering as many monsters from literature, movies, and legend together in one space. We can imagine the possibilities of the setup, and admittedly, when they all start piling into the hotel—a castle on a peak that certainly gives the aura of some evil things lurking within it—the introduction to each creature in succession is energetic and as close to fulfilling the promise of the premise as the movie gets.

Then it's as if screenwriters Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel simply gave up or, at best, became complacent, having established the scenario and the basic characteristics of the monsters. They become background filler, occasionally showing up as the plot and the lazy gags take over to bring the movie nowhere worth going.

The story is about Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler), who for over a century has kept his daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) in the castle, which he designed to be impregnable by humans. See, his wife was killed when an angry mob set fire to his old castle, and he has become overly protective of his daughter. There's an opening montage connecting the building of the castle with Mavis growing up and learning about all things vampire. His construction project completed (by zombies, who, given how much menial and hard labor they do here, really should form a union), Dracula opens his castle to every monster in the world—a human-free sanctuary where they can do the things that monsters do.

From what the screenplay offers, those things basically amount to playing boring parlor games and eating disgusting food. The items on a buffet table are meant to elicit disgust, but we can only role our eyes at how transparent and obvious the joke is.

This year, as they always do, Dracula's friends have gathered for Mavis' birthday (She's 118, which is akin to a teenager in vampire age), but when the slack-jawed, college-aged Jonathan (voice of Andy Samberg) wanders into the castle while backpacking across Europe, Dracula has to pretend that the annoying guy is a monster and a party planner. Jonathan wants to make the party more fun for everyone.  Obviously, Dracula hates the idea but has to play along to protect his hotel's reputation.

Let's get the ancillary characters out of the way. The monster created out of various body parts and brought to life by a mad scientist is named Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) here, reminding us that there's still confusion about the distinction between the creator and his creation despite the endless reminders. Frank's body arrives in multiple packages and has difficulty reassembling himself; then he's just a bored, middle-aged lug with a shrill wife (voice of Fran Drescher).

Murray (voice of CeeLo Green), a mummy, arrives on a wave of sand, and Griffin (voice of David Spade), the invisible man, makes a non-appearance (There are a few amusing bits about what he actually looks like). Wayne (voice of Steve Buscemi), the wolf-man, has a litter of pups who are keen on urinating on everything. If that weren't bad enough, one of Dracula's zombie helpers brings in a sentient sponge to clean up the mess and gets some sort of perverse joy out of it. There are others, too, like some imps or gnomes or gremlins, Bigfoot, and, perhaps the smartest casting, Quasimodo (voice of Jon Lovitz) as a French chef (His pet rat's name is Esmeralda).

There's really nothing for them to do, save for a raucous pool party and a couple of awkward musical numbers involving a band featuring Dracula's main friends. The primary focus of the movie is Dracula's attempts to keep his daughter from living her life for fear that something might happen to her. There's a somewhat funny scene where he allows her to go off to a village, which is actually just a set with zombies in masks playing humans; chaos ensues.

After that experience, the movie falls into a pattern of schmaltz (Dracula explains his coddling; Mavis and Jonathan fall in love) surrounded by poor attempts at humor. Even the animation in Hotel Transylvania looks unfinished, with characters seeming to skip a step or two in their movements. I would usually suspect 3-D, but I didn't see the movie in 3-D.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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