IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 93 mins
REVIEWED DY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Dracula is the owner and creator of Hotel Transylvania, a five-star resort where the world’s monsters can be safe from human civilization. Dracula invites some of the world’s most famous monsters like to celebrate the 118th birthday of his daughter Mavis. However, Mavis prefers to explore the outside world, and gets her father’s permission to do so, but the village he directs her to is actually an elaborate deception to convince her of the threat of humans enough to coax her back. However, this charade inadvertently attracts the attention of an ordinary young traveller named Jonathan, who was exploring the surrounding forest, and he follows the staff to the hotel. Once Jonathan enters the hotel, Dracula has to hide him from the patrons, something which is very difficult when Jonathan and Mavis strike up a friendship…..
Coming soon after the wonderful Paranorman and the straight-to-DVD Daddy I’m A Zombie [and there have been others too] is another animated movie for Halloween, and Hotel Transylvania sounds like a blast, but is actually a considerable disappointment and is nowhere near the quality of those two efforts, nor, I suspect, the upcoming Frankenweenie. It’s passable but unmemorable and smacks of missed potential. It will keep the kids occupied and adults won’t find it too painful, but it will probably be almost entirely forgotten a few days later. It is a considerable improvement on the last animated movie that Adam Sandler was involved with, the atrocious Eight Crazy Nights, but is a disappointment considering it’s directed by the creator of great animated shows like Samurai Jack and is one of Sony Pictures Animation’s weakest efforts. Then again, this project did go through five directors before Genndy Tartakovsky took the reigns
The central idea, of course, is that the monsters are afraid of humans, not the other way round. Dracula in this movie doesn’t even drink proper blood. It’s a good idea, even if it’s borrowed from Monsters Inc, and for about ten minutes Hotel Transylvania is great fun as it introduces its main setting and major characters amidst a non-stop flow of gags in the tried and tested Dreamworks manner. Proof, as if it was needed, that 3D is just one big moneymaking con, is in some great though almost dizzying scenes where we seem to move around the castle. Viewed in 2D, the sequences are immersive enough and would not really be improved by being in 3D, though saying that, some of the action scenes are a bit of a blurry mess. Nonetheless, the movie is fun at first but begins to outstay its welcome. The plot is the same old stuff about a girl on the verge of adulthood who wants her independence but is saddled with an over-protective father. There is no attempt at horror; yes, I know the film is aimed at kids but with its subject matter and such a huge cast of monsters it would have been good to have some element of fear in it. Paranorman managed it. That film also had some great ideas and Hotel Transylvania does have a few of its own, like the monsters arriving at a village where lots of people are dressed up as monsters for a festival, but fails to do much with them.
So it’s basically just lots of jokes with a bit of a schmaltzy background, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find things like “great to see you” being said to the Invisible Man, or Jonathan pretending he’s related to Frankenstein’s [yes, the movie is another that wrongfully calls the Frankenstein Monster Frankenstein] left arm. That’s all there really is to the film though, and though I personally have nothing against that kind of humour, for a kid’s movie too many of the gags are lavatorial, crude and even sexual, so much so that I’m not sure that the ‘U’ certificate is appropriate. A sponge sucking up urine might be funny, and you might even chuckle at the sight of Dracula rapping, but the film’s script just stays on that level. The film’s message of tolerance is a worthwhile one and its central romance has a certain sweetness, but it’s not given enough time in the rush for the next weak laugh. It doesn’t help that the design is bland throughout and the look of the monsters unappealing, though horror fans will have fun spotting various creatures or variations on thereof, which include some surprises. By the end, though I didn’t think I was enjoying the film that much, I was right behind Dracula when he set out on one of those final dashes to save the way, proof that the movie was working in some way.
Adam Sandler’s mock-Transylvanian accent gets more and more tiresome as the film goes on, while unsurprisingly you’ll probably notice voice work from some of his talentless pals like Kevin James and Adam Samberg. The songs in this film are dire, the sort of garbage that dominates the pop music charts these days, though that might just be my age! Overall though Hotel Transylvania tries so hard to be ‘with it’ and ‘down with the kids’ that it ends up being a bit patronising, though dare I say it most of the children at the showing I was at did seem to enjoy it. Some even laughed. The film’s commercial success, which undoubtedly owes a lot to saturation marketing, is a little depressing but I suppose there are worse films kids can watch. I didn’t regret seeing Hotel Transylvania, but I doubt I’ll want to see it again….at least for a while.