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Hotel Transylvania (2012)

| October 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

It is probably hard to drum up much excitement about an animated comedy with a title like Hotel Transylvania.  You might expect a lot of puns and sight gags and jokes that you heard back in daycare.  Not so fast.  Hotel Transylvania is actually a witty, lively, funny and inventive screwball animated adventure that mashes up all the classic movie monsters and puts them into a movie that is worth your time.  It’s no masterpiece but unlike the dreary ParaNorman, this one keeps its comic tone and doesn’t drown itself in overwrought melodrama.

The story is simple, but not simple-minded.  It opens in 1895 as we meet Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), a widowed father raising his infant daughter Mavis.  We see him teaching her the basics, like how to fly while wearing a safety helmet.  Then he teaches her how to transform herself into a bat.  At night, he sings to her: “Hush little vampire/don’t say a word/papa’s gonna bite the head off a bird.”  We also see him reading to her a book of horror stories involving human beings.  Those scenes are funny and unendingly cute.

Cut forward to the present day and we find that little Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) is all grown up and about to celebrate her 118th birthday even though she still looks like a teenager (actually she looks a lot like Winona Ryder).  Her dad, meanwhile, has turned his castle into a vacation spot for all the urban legends and classic monsters as a getaway spot from the tyranny of the human world – turns out they’re more afraid of us then we are of them.  Descending on the hotel are The Wolfman (Steve Bushemi), Frankenstein (Kevin James), his bride (Fran Drescher), The Invisible Man (David Spade), The Mummy (Cee Lo Green), and also Bigfoot, The Blob, The Fly and a four-headed hydra.  The hotel staff is made up of zombie bellhops, witch chambermaids and Quasimodo himself (Jon Lovitz) who acts as the head chef.  The monsters are played for laughs, none  is seriously threatening, not even Dracula who claims that he’s given up drinking blood for a healthier blood substitute.

The conceit of the story is that Mavis knows nothing about human beings and her dad goes to great lengths to keep it that way (he has a reason that isn’t immediately clear).  He tries to scare her by dressing up his zombies as human beings with pitchforks so she won’t want to leave the castle.  That gets the attention of a dimwitted slacker dude named Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) who is backpacking through the nearby woods and ends up at Dracula’s front door.  He’s a wide-eyed innocent who refuses to leave and Drac goes to great pains to keep him a secret.  He knows that a human being in the house could be bad for business, so he dresses the kid up like a monster to keep him hidden in plain sight.

Dressing Jonathan up like Frankenstein hides him from the other monsters, but another problem arises when he and Mavis fall in love.  That opens another story arc as dad doesn’t want his little girl to find love, especially with a human being.

It is difficult to describe Hotel Transylvania in words without making it sound like a snooze.  What is best about this movie are the visual gags, not the story.  It comes from the mind of Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of such classic Cartoon Network hits as “The Powerpuff Girls”, “Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Samurai Jack” and the original incarnation of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”.  What those great shows – and this movie – have in common is a certain comic inspiration.  Tartakovsky has a talent for comic timing.  He animates his characters in such a way that they move at a rapid-fire clip that gives the movie a great comic pace akin to the Looney Tunes.  There are facial expressions, movements of the hands and of the feet that give the characters more dimension and more comic depth than you might expect.

Now the million dollar question: Will kids like it?  The answer: Absolutely.  Although this is a movie brimming with monsters and ghouls there’s nothing scary here.  All of the monsters are cuddly, not scary, the action is fun and nothing they can’t handle.  There are some serious moment late in the picture that kind of deaden the pace a little bit, but the movie is entertaining and doesn’t cop out on the laughs – clean laughs. There is no objectionable language or overtly rude humor.  The most refreshing thing is that adults won’t be bored by it; there are some wonderful cultural references that kid other current vampire movies, especially a comment by Dracula about Twilight, which won’t be spoiled here.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Comedy, Kids