With Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy both releasing in South Africa this year, Hotel Transylvania could have completed the Adam Sandler trifecta of awfulness. After all the funnyman does more than lend his voice to this animated comedy – he’s executive produced it as well, with his wife and daughter providing dialogue for a few minor characters. Hotel Transylvania could have been lazy, puerile and saccharine. Fortunately though, the film manages to hurdle expectation and remain fairly entertaining. Hotel Transylvania is not groundbreaking in any way, but it’s an upbeat, surprisingly safe 90-minute amusement for families.
In terms of plot, widowed Dracula (Adam Sandler) is exceptionally protective of his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). In fact, he’s so worried that he goes to the extreme length of building a castle in remote Transylvania. This castle goes on to become a holiday resort for other monsters tired of hiding in the unwelcoming human world. Unfortunately for Drac and co., the hotel’s sanctuary status is threatened when human backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg) arrives, and promptly “zings” with Mavis on the cusp of her 118th birthday. Dracula has to keep Jonathan’s presence hidden from the human-phobic monsters and prevent the young couple from becoming too attached.
I think you can guess how everything ends up. Misconceptions melt away, characters learn important life lessons and everyone gets their happy ending. So yeah, Hotel Transylvania isn’t original in terms of plot. It’s also, at least to begin with, rather heavy on fart and poop jokes.
Fortunately though, there’s still enough for older audiences to appreciate. The distinctive character designs – Jon Lovitz’s Quasimodo is a memorable repulsive extreme – and well-textured CGI-animation are especial strengths. Background characters, including sassy shrunken heads and a bunch of much-abused zombie porters, will also leave adults chortling every time they appear on screen.
I’m also happy to report that the characters aren’t nearly as irritating as they could have been. Unlike, say, Shark Tale where the all-star voice cast simply rehashed their onscreen personae, in Hotel Transylvania, Sandler and his buddies (including Kevin James, David Spade and Steve Buscemi) are actually playing scripted parts. And they’re a likeable bunch of monsters. For example, Selena Gomez’s Mavis could easily have been an obnoxious brat, prone to Brave-esque eye-rolls and screaming matches with her dad. Instead Mavis is a well-adjusted and sweet “young” woman.
The only real pity for animation fans is that there’s little obvious in Hotel Transylvania that indicates the touch of director Genndy (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Lab) Tartakovsky. This lost opportunity is disappointing but then again, the award-winning director of Star Wars: Clone Wars was something like the sixth animator to accept helming duties for this film. This could easily have prevented his signature, heavily stylised visual style from dominating proceedings.
Still, as far as kiddie-friendly animated movies go, you could do far worse than Hotel Transylvania – which is touching without feeling overbearingly schmaltzy or preachy. And apart from a few jump moments where Dracula unleashes his snarling fury, this is a safe monster film even for littlies. You don’t have to rush out and watch this one at the cinema, or even add it to your must-see list, but it’s cute and likeable enough.
Last Updated: November 2, 2012