The most recent big screen offering from Sony Pictures Animation is an enjoyable and visually stylish comedy that while not matching the high watermark set by much of Pixar’s output or some of the DreamWorks stable, is still an above average fun-filled romp.
Hotel Transylvania emerged on these shores around the same time as much vaunted stop-motion animation’s Paranorman and Frankenweenie. This trio of ghoulish child-friendly movies were all well received but Hotel Transylvania was somewhat lost in the wake of the other two. That’s not to say it didn’t perform well at the box office, indeed it achieved the highest grossing opening September weekend ever in the States, but it came to be seen critically as something of an inferior rival to the other two horror themed offerings. It’s a shame in a way that Hotel Transylvania was released at a similar time to those two movies as it seemed to come and go with very little fanfare. On Blu-ray however it should receive a more than warranted second lease of life as it really is a thoroughly entertaining comedy that while perhaps less adult-friendly than Pixar’s output, still provides enough laughs to make it well worth seeking out.
The story flips conventional horror wisdom on its head and portrays the various monsters from across movie lore as the persecuted good guys living in fear of the evil humans. At the centre of the story is Count Dracula, a controlling, yet loveable, figure who built a secluded hotel in the wilds of Transylvania to act as a safe haven for any monsters wishing to escape maltreatment at the hands of people. He is also a single parent; raising his daughter Mavis alone after his wife was lost tragically years earlier at the hands of, you guessed it, humans. Mavis is growing up fast however and is due to celebrate her 118th birthday. To mark the occasion, Drac has invited all their closest monstrous pals to the hotel for a celebration. Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, a gremlin and a family of Werewolves are all on the guestlist.
Mavis however longs to see more of the world and escape the confines of the hotel, a notion which Drac fears more than anything as he seeks to keep her safe. Things get complicated further when an affable 21-year-old American backpacker named Johnny unexpectedly arrives at the supposedly isolated Hotel and immediately forms a bond with the young vampire. Dracula doesn’t want to cause any panic among his guests as his years of fear-mongering over humans has led his friends to view them as an extreme danger. As a precaution therefore he disguises Johnny as a young Frankenstein monster. As the fun-loving Johnnystein grows ever more popular with the guests and Mavis in particular, it becomes increasingly obvious that Drac may be forced to both revaluate his feelings towards people and learn to be less protective of his daughter.
Plot-wise Hotel Transylvania is fairly thin and poses few surprises as it hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion, but the sense of fun and loveable characters more than see it through. As mentioned previously, it’s definitely a film more specifically aimed at a younger market than some other animated movies of recent times but there’s enough chuckles along the way to keep grown-ups entertained too. Johnny especially is a great source of fun, his retelling of how he wound up at the Hotel, completely oblivious to its true nature, is a particular highlight.
The voice cast is as strong as one might expect for a big budget animation with Adam Sandler at his least-annoying in years as doting father Dracula. Andy Samberg is perfect as the easy-going Johnny and Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi and even the likes of David Spader and Kevin James do sterling work too. It’s not a cast, Buscemi apart, who one might get particularly excited by in a live-action scenario, but in this instance they all perform their parts with aplomb.
It’s not a game changer by any means but Hotel Transylvania is well worth a watch and is the type of movie that could become a kiddy favourite around future Halloweens. A sequel is unsurprisingly already in the pipeline and due for a 2015 release.
It’s a bright, brash and loud movie and thanks to the impressive animation, one which looks great in high definition Blu-ray. There are some decent enough extras including an animated short entitled ‘Goodbye Mr. Foot’, deleted scenes and a director’s commentary and the Blu-ray release also has some exclusive generic making of featurettes thrown in for good measure too.
Hotel Transylvania is out on DVD and blu-ray on 4th February 2013.
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg
Runtime: 91 min