What do you get when you combine the talents of a Cartoon Network veteran, a Saturday Night Live writer and the cast from virtually every Happy Madison film? The new Sony Animation Studio’s movie, Hotel Transylvania, starring the voice talents of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James and David Spade. Is this a fun, family friendly movie about Dracula and his friends or is it just another cheap attempt to sell Happy Meal Toys?
After centuries of monster persecution at the hands of humans, Count Dracula decides to build a safe haven to protect his friends and his only daughter, Mavis, from mobs, pitch forks and torches. He has his army of zombie minions construct a castle where his friends can feel safe and at home. That castle is Hotel Transylvania. Protected by a haunted forest and a graveyard filled with the living dead, Dracula wants to make sure his resort is human free.
On the eve of his daughter’s 118th Birthday, Dracula invites all his close friends to the hotel for a weekend long celebration. But Mavis doesn’t want a party, she wants her freedom to explore the world. Dracula becomes overprotective in fear that she will suffer the same fate as her mother, who was brutally killed at the hands of villagers. He allows her to visit a local village, but it is all a ruse. The village is filled with disguised zombie servants that scare Mavis back to the hotel.
The festivities begin and the overprotective father’s plans are falling into place, but all his hard work could become undone when a human discovers the hotel and crashes the party. Dracula must do everything he can to keep the stranger’s identity hidden from the hotel guests or it could result in the end of monster-kind.
As of late, children’s movies have subtly inserted messages to open doors of communication between parents and their children. How to Train your Dragon was a story about an awkward boy trying to gain the approval of his father. Brave was about a rebellious girl in a power struggle with her mother over tradition. ParaNorman was about bullying and discrimination. Hotel Transylvania is no exception. On the outside, the movie is a very colorful monster mash of characters having a good time singing and dancing, but hidden underneath the cape is a story about father who is afraid of his little girl growing up and leaving home. Dracula isn’t trying to be an overbearing father, but after losing his wife, his daughter is the only thing in the world he has to remind him of her. As a father of three daughters, I could relate to the film in more ways than one. Now while Hotel Transylvania is more kid friendly than ParaNorman, it was still successful in relaying the message of how powerful the bond between a daddy and his “little girl” really is.
Directing the movie is Cartoon Network animation veteran, Genndy Tartakovsky. He is responsible for directing such iconic cartoons as the Power Puff Girls, Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory. His experience is shown throughout the movie. He knows exactly how to take classic Universal Monsters and give them character and heart. Now while Dracula and Mavis may not be as rememberable as Bubbles and Buttercup, they are still fun for kids without being scary.
Adam Sandler lends his voice talents as the voice of Dracula. Now while he tried to do a proper Romanian accent, at times it seemed like he was just doing an Adam Sandler impression. What Sandler does succeed in is portraying a concerned father that truly thinks of his daughter’s safety over anything else. As a father of two girls, Sandler (who also produced the film) seems to have made the movie homage to them. Because of that, the movie showed more heart than what I was expecting.
It wouldn’t be an Adam Sandler film if he didn’t bring his friends along to help out. The monster cast is filled with Saturday Night Live and Happy Madison (Sandler’s Production Company) alumni. Kevin James plays Frankenstein, David Spade is the Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi is the Wolfman, Molly Shannon plays the Wolfman’s wife, Fran Drescher is the Bride of Frankenstein and CeeLo Green plays the Mummy. It was like the cast from Grown-Ups got together to make an animated film, though, at least they made a better film this time around. The voice of Dracula’s daughter, Mavis, is Disney Channel veteran, Selena Gomez. Rumor was that Miley Cyrus was the first choice, but she backed out before production. Good thing because Gomez did a good job, and I don’t think it would have been believable if a vampire had a slightly subtle Kentucky accent. Playing the human, Johnny, is Andy Samberg. This is his second film this year with Sandler as the two starred in the adult comedy That’s My Boy. Until I watched the credits, I totally forgot that Samberg was in the movie. He doesn’t do his typical voice. Samberg portrays Johnny as a carefree hipster just passing through as he goes from hostel to hostel discovering the European country side. The camaraderie of past films that the majority of the actors have developed over the years is what makes Hotel Transylvania an enjoyable film.
While I am usually a proponent to viewing computer animated movies in 3D, Hotel Transylvania didn’t really have any of the typical sight gags to warrant spending the extra bucks. The 3D did add some depth, but nothing like the 3D effects of Finding Nemo or How to Train your Dragon. Take my advice and save your money for the concession stand.
My kids and I had a good time with Hotel Transylvania. It is is a fantastic Daddy-Daughter afternoon outing. It may not be a spectacularly animated as Disney-Pixar’s Brave, but it still looked fantastic. The characters were cute, the songs were fun, and the dialog had enough adult humor to entertain the parents while not being too over the heads of little ones. There is even an unexpected joke that makes fun of the Twilight series that got a huge laugh out of the audience. The only major fault I found with the movie was the repetitive dialogue at the beginning. After so many times, I got it, humans are bad. That point will be drilled into your head enough times up until the middle of the second act. On the other side of the coin, the movie teaches little ones about tolerance and understanding. I guess that I was also slightly disappointed that with CeeLo Green being in the cast, his song talents were not utilized. To many, that may be a good or bad thing. If you are looking for a fun pre-Halloween movie to take the family to this weekend, I recommend checking out Hotel Transylvania. It is definitely more enjoyable than Twilight!
In Theaters: September 28, 2012
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: PG (for some rude humor, action and scary images)
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green, Jon Lovitz
Genre: Animated, Comedy
Distributor: Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Animation
Official Site: http://www.WelcomeToHotelT.com