By Bob Garver
I have a feeling that “Hotel Transylvania” is going to become a Halloween institution. Not because it’s in any way a good movie (it isn’t), but because of its cast of characters. The film makes the good decision to combine classic Halloween creatures in such a way that the mere idea of them interacting with each other sets the imagination to a pleasant bubble. The creatures may not actually do anything funny or interesting, but based on the premise you’ll get the impression that something funny or interesting could happen at any time.
At the forefront is Count Dracula (Adam Sandler, thankfully playing the role with relative maturity). He runs a hotel for monsters that doubles as a safe house to protect them from “evil” humans. His daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) is celebrating her 118th birthday and all the family friends are in town for a big party. Among the guests are Frankenstein and his wife Eunice (Kevin James and Fran Drescher respectively), Wayne and Wendy Werewolf (Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon respectively), Murray the Mummy (Cee-Lo Green), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), and hundreds of other assorted creatures.
Mavis is happy to see everyone, but what she really wants is to go out into the world after spending her whole life in the hotel. Now that she’s 118, she has her father’s permission to do so. He suggests that she start small and visit a nearby village. The “people” in the village threaten her and she retreats to the hotel terrified of humans all over again. Unbeknownst to her, the entire scene was a setup by her father to scare her into staying in the hotel forever. Unbeknownst to him, the fake scene attracted the attention of a real human tourist named Johnny (Andy Samberg) who then shows up at the hotel.
Dracula knows that Johnny is harmless, but he’s afraid that his presence will cause a panic among the guests, particularly Mavis, whose fear of humans has recently been renewed. He disguises Johnny as a monster and makes up a phony-baloney cover story about him being a party planner while trying to sneak him out of the hotel. For his part, Johnny is a sweet, loveable klutz who wants to befriend the monsters. He causes a lot of trouble when he first arrives, but is soon heralded as the life of the party. It should come as no surprise that he falls for Mavis.
The jokes are what you’d expect from a Sandler movie: lots of potty humor, grossouts, and annoyances played for laughs. Even with supernatural characters, the gags seem tired. Dracula is an overprotective father, Frankenstein’s body parts fall off, the werewolf has fleas and out-of-control-kids, the mummy is fat, the Invisible Man can get away with pranks, Quasimodo has an exaggerated French accent, and everybody eats disgusting things like bugs. The characters insult each other a lot, and the film is partial to gags where the characters deal with being stereotyped. Also, this is one of those animated movies that thinks it’s incredibly funny for the characters to break dance and yes, rap.
“Hotel Transylvania” is a film that kids will probably love, since they likely aren’t old enough to be bored by it. They’ll see that the film has a ton of intriguing elements like vampires and monsters and they won’t see that the film can’t handle these elements with a lot of creativity. I can complain about the film’s immature humor all I want, but since the target audience is immature I can’t say they won’t enjoy it. It’s appropriate that “Hotel Transylvania” is a Halloween film, as I consider it the cinematic equivalent of the junk food kids collect while trick-or-treating. There’s a good chance they’ll like it, but they won’t be better for having seen it.
One and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Hotel Transylvania” is rated PG for some rude humor, action, and scary images. Its running time is 91 minutes.