Director : Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenplay : Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel (story by Todd Durham and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2012
Hotel Transylvania is, following ParaNorman, the second 3D animated horror-comedy to come out in as many months, although it differs quite substantially in that it has no real interest in the horror genre outside of borrowing caricatured versions of classic movie monsters to use for fun and gags. There’s nothing wrong with that per se (Abbott and Costello got plenty of mileage out of it in the late 1940s and early ’50s), but it also makes Hotel Transylvania a much less interesting film than ParaNorman, which consistently managed a wonderful balancing act among the scary, the funny, and the sweet. Hotel Transylvania, on the other hand, is more interested in simply being manic, which is great for entertaining little ones with short attention spans but might begin to wear on older viewers.
The story begins in 1895 (two years before Bram Stoker published Dracula), with the good Count (voiced in his best Bela Lugosi-meets-Zohan impersonation by Adam Sandler) deciding to construct the titular hotel as a refuge for monsters to get away from all the pitchfork- and torch-wielding humans who would like to do them in. His real purpose in building the hotel is to protect his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) from the outside world by giving her a place to grow up surrounded (and protected) by her own kind. We then jump forward to the present day where Mavis is turning 118 and Dracula has organized a massive birthday party to celebrate, which has drawn monsters from all around the world: Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), a mummy named Murray (CeeLo Green), the wolf man Wayne (Steve Buscemi), his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), and their brood of out-of-control pups, and Griffin the invisible man (David Spade).
However, Mavis’s dream is to see the outside world and meet the humans she has always heard about, but been told to fear, which Dracula tries to quell by setting up a fake human village populated by zombies in human masks who frighten Mavis into staying inside the hotel. However, the hotel’s century-old success in keeping humans out comes to an abrupt end with the unexpected arrival of Jonathan (Andy Samburg), a bumbling dude of a college backpacker who stumbles into the realm of the monsters and thinks he’s just found the world’s coolest masquerade party. Dumb-sweet in the best sense of the term, Jonathan has no idea what he’s in for, especially once he and Mavis lock eyes and Dracula must try to disguise his human status by dressing him up as the third cousin of Frankenstein’s right arm (don’t ask).
Written by Peter Baynham (Arthur Christmas) and Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live’s “TV Funhouse”) from a story by Todd Durham, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman, Hotel Transylvania essentially marries the monster/human fear reversal of Monsters Inc. (1998) with the overprotective-father-needing-to-let-go themes of Finding Nemo (2003)—and if those references seem a tad dated, bear in mind that Hotel Transylvania was greenlit back in 2006 and has been through nearly half a dozen directors. At times the film achieves a sense of real poignancy in both the relationship between Dracula and Mavis and Mavis’s desire to complete her own identity, while other times it simply revels in slapstick mania. Director Genndy Tartakovsky, who is making his feature directorial debut after more than two decades of work on animated television shows such as Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars, inundates the film with his vibrant visual flair and wicked sense of physical humor, but all too often it feels like too much. Hotel Transylvania is so frenzied and hyped in its desire to please and entertain that it starts to feel exhausting, rather than exhilarating—a monster mash that goes on a little too long and invited too many to the party.
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
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