HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA – The Review
Welcome to the HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, which checks in as the second recent animated monterpalooza , after PARANORMAN and ahead of Tim Burton’s FRANKENWEENIE. Sony Pictures brings all of the Universal classic monsters (and a few others) under one roof but at the heart is a father-daughter relationship story that runs deeper than that of the run-of-the-mill animated feature. Though the comedy is sometimes more frenetic than inspired and viewer emotions are rarely touched to any notable degree, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA has lively monster design, a fangtastic script, great characters, gorgeous animation, and a top-notch voice cast. It’s a lot of fun.
Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) lavish five-stake resort is located in a secluded forest inaccessible to humans, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be themselves without pitchfork-wielders bothering them. You see, the monsters in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA are actually more afraid of humans than humans are of them. Drac has built this zombie-staffed monsters-only hotel in order to shield his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) from the dangerous humans he considers responsible for killing his wife. To daddy’s horror, Mavis has finally turned 118, which means she’s free to explore the world on her own. On this special weekend, Dracula has invited some of the world’s most famous monsters–Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more–to help celebrate her birthday. For Drac, catering to all of these legendary monsters is no problem–but a potential catastrophe ensues when Jonathan, an oblivious backpacking human (Adam Samburg) stumbles on the hotel. When He and Mavis initially eye each other, they “zing,” - it’s cross-species love at first sight and Dracula must try everything in his power to keep these youngsters apart.
Let’s get to the worst element of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA first: Adam Sandler raps and Cee Lo (as Murray the Mummy) sings with auto-tune in a couple of excruciating musical numbers that made my ears bleed. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it will date it badly and it’ll cause me to knock off a whole star. Other than that HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA is full of funny fast-flying gags (watch for a glimpse of an animated TWILIGHT In-Flight movie) and non-stop Ackermanesque monster puns, never for a moment scary but still an enjoyable kid’s picture that has plenty of winks for the grown-ups in the audience. Some of the supporting monsters are given short shrift (I would have appreciate a couple of Blacky Lagoon jokes) but Steve Buscemi steals the show as Wayne, the beaten-down werewolf driven to the brink of collapse by his wife and large brood. A gag where he takes care of a flock of sheep blocking a road during a mad race to the airport is among the film’s funniest. I found HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA one of the better animated films I’ve seen recently (and I’ve seen a lot!) and my two young daughters loved it. They were especially excited about the smart casting of TV teen Selena Gomez in the central role (I recall seeing the similar MAD MONSTERS PARTY – which featured the vocal talents of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller – at the theater when I was their age). Sandler turns out to be perfect for the lead role, managing to sound just like Dracula and himself at the same time. Kevin James is a loveable Frankenstein while Fran Dresher as Mrs. Stein and David Spade as the Invisible Man, a floating pair of glasses who swears he has red hair, shine. Because this is an Adam Sandler movie, there a few too many fart jokes but HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA is a family-friendly, Halloween epic that teaches a message about tolerance for monsters who have feelings too. This Monster Kid of the Year gives HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA his seal of approval.
4 of 5 Stars