Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: (Voices of) Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Cee-Lo Green, Fran Drescher
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins
Release Date: September 28, 2012
PLOT: Protective daddy Dracula (Sandler) tries to kick out a nosy human (Samberg) who accidentally walks into his hotel for monsters only, and also falls for his vampire daughter Mavis (Gomez).
WHO’S IT FOR? For all of you families considering a trip to ol’ Hotel Transylvania, beware: a field trip 200 miles through a flaming minefield to a second-run theater playing ParaNorman would offer a more fulfilling movie-going experience. More specifically, this is for kids who are enabled in their junk food addictions.
EXPECTATIONS: With roles in movies like Zookeeper, Sandler is not good at voice-overs, and with a movie like Jack and Jill he is certainly not very good at family comedies. As for the director, this is Tartakovsky’s first debut, after making exciting animation shows like “Samurai Jack” and “Dexter’s Laboratory.” If animation director Seth McFarlane can find an immediate stride with Ted as he did this past summer, maybe Tartakovsky can make something out of a cute concept with far too many smiling faces for one poster.
Adam Sandler as Dracula: Even as Dracula, Sandler is able to make the classic character plain with this overprotective character. He’s a generic worrisome patriarch. As for his voice acting, though Sandler is the only one who is trying to go for a certain type (everyone else just uses their regular voices, it seems), Sandler’s Dracula voice is only a measly impression.
Andy Samberg as Jonathan: Continuing his abusive relationship as Sandler’s slave, the former SNL comedian is reduced to archetype now, playing an excitable surfer dude, an excitable Dave Matthews Band-loving bro, or something lame in between. Jonathan’s happy-go-lucky attitude is meant to be a cute contrast to Sandler’s Dracula, but is too simple to be funny.
Rest of Cast: Gomez is such an indifferent presence here. Other voice talents in the movie are simply showing up to the recording booths, and making the same joke over and over. The most amusing of supporting character castings would be Steve Buscemi as a werewolf. Or, invisible comedian David Spade playing the an invisible man (or Hollow Man?). Good one, Sandler.
TALKING: Hotel Transylvania tries to quirk-up the cliche of young people finding true love by using the term “zing” to lazily explain such feelings. With other cheesy dialogue coming in right on script cue, even the comedy loses its touch in dialogue as the monsters are soon identified by the same repetitive joke (like Spade’s Invisible Man, or Buscemi’s werewolf.
SIGHTS: As for fulfilling the qualifications of crappy animated movies, this movie has at least two sequences in which characters dance to music, and it’s always to the same effect – “Look at how much fun these monsters are having because they are dancing for you!” As hollow as many of the film’s fast sequences may be, they are still impressive feats of detailed animation and engineering. It’s too bad this movie is so exhaustively dumb, and that its powers are used for evil, because the animation is really great.
SOUNDS: A galloping score matches the sugar-high energy of this movie, with instruments clanging as if the characters were physically knocking them down. “Problem” by Becky G featuring will.i.am plays during the credits with fitfully dumb lyrics like “I don’t have to try, I just do what I does.” In case you want to hear Adam Sandler rap, he does that in this movie. Because characters rapping in movies isn’t old or anything, yo.
BEST SCENE: I broke an empty morgue-like silence at a critic’s screening of this movie when I laughed at Samberg’s Jonathan character taking a cell phone picture of a crying man. I thought it was funny, okay?!
ENDING: Admittedly, I didn’t see this movie working towards that type of end (it’s kind of a clever use of vampire bat powers, at least). Even better was the art featured in the closing credits, which more visually touching than anything else before it.
QUESTIONS: Why? Exactly how much of this is Sandler’s grubby hands, and how much is just a bad script co-written by Robert Smigel?
REWATCHABILITY: For me, no way. For those with kids, Hotel Transylvania might serve as a decent junior goth babysitter for parts of it, though this movie isn’t bound to hold the attention for long (which could easily be the case even for the film’s first viewing).
Hotel Transylvania is a fleeting family comedy with nothing to chew on, the equivalent of a large serving of cotton candy that’s fluffy and has bright colors, but only resonates with you because it rots in your teeth later. This animated movie for kids as slaved over by adults is thoroughly juvenile – this includes attitude, and not just its sense of humor. It is a movie that refuses to grow by any means, stuck in its baby speak gobbledygook that makes for its entire reason Adam Sandler probably wanted it made.
No matter where Sandler goes, even hiding behind a recording booth, he still dirty-hobo-stinks of the consistent indifferent brain farts he has been peddling to family comedy moviegoers for the past four years. This time, instead of dressing like a woman or having fat Kevin James fat run into stuff (it’s funny because he’s fat!), Sandler puts to work a capable animation director whose energy is used for hyper mush from start to finish. Tartakovsky might have directed this, but the film is certainly executive produced by Sandler (as his character indicates, this is indeed the bloodsucker’s party).
To his credit, Sandler knows the ugly business of what gets people in movie seats. He knows kid have short attention spans, and he knows that fart jokes will work, forever and ever, Amen (Look! I used one above!). He’s smart to choose an animator who can generate this anarchic gobbledygook at 100 MPH, and he’s hip to the current that modern kids are ready for spooky fluff (without it even being Halloween). The concept of death, and the color black itself, simply doesn’t carry the same spookiness. In the age of sexy Twilight vampires and even kids killing kids in The Hunger Games, the darkness about death that might have made something by Tim Burton seem “freaky” even ten years ago is now ready to be digested by the same kids intended to see The OogieLoves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Hotel Transylvania has all of this crap, packaged in one 90 minute experience that feels like two hours, and flings it at the audience with the same anarchic degree of aging clown desperation that made his previous That’s My Boy suck, but is also what makes “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” record-breaking television (although, don’t get me wrong, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is a more watchable catastrophe of American taste. I’m serious.) Here, Frankenstein farts, the Invisible Man powders his invisible butt, fleas have flea sex, and a witch sponge soaks up wolf piss. That this movie doesn’t feature egregious product placement is a goddamn miracle; considering that’s one of Sandler’s sluttier vices, I’m sure he just forgot.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10