MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Animated Monster Comedy/Voices of: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green, Jon Lovitz, Jim Wise, Luenell, Chris Parnell, Brian George, Brian Stack, Jackie Sandler, Rob Riggle, Paul Brittain, Brian McCann, Jim Wise, Paul Brittain, Jonny Solomon, Craig Kellman, Brian McCann/ Runtime: 91 minutes
I think it is safe to say that for quite a while now dear reader that the computer-animated family movie is one that has become quite the common movie to see be released on either your friendly neighborhood streaming service or in multiplexes. Oh and if it can’t be found on those then it is also quite likely that it is on its way to DVD and Blu-Ray following its theatrical run which will see loads of copies sold due to families buying them in droves so their kids have something to keep them entertained to say nothing of memorizing their favorite lines, come to adopt certain characters in their fantasy lives, and just enjoy the animated shenanigans time and time again (much to your DVD/Blu-Ray player’s exasperation). However unlike the vast majority of slices of cinematic pie in the realm of live action, I guess one reason I really appreciate computer animated movies is because there is still a degree of novelty at play courtesy of narratives that have heart, rich characterization, quite a bit of comedy, and intriguing narratives to name but a few elements. I guess that the reason I bring this up dear reader is because the 2012 slice of cinematic pie that is Hotel Transylvania is one that doesn’t exactly cover the span of possible intriguing novel concepts that it could. Rather, this is one film that is satisfied enough with giving us a fairly unoriginal narrative about an uber-protective parent trying to do whatever he can to keep his daughter safe from those who would do them harm with the key distinguishing factor being that the father at the heart of this story….is infamous vampire Dracula. To that end, this slice of cinematic pie may willingly accepts clichés, though this narrative tends to draw those in quite a bit, and it may have quite a bit of fun with iconic designs, but it also never sets its narrative apart as no more and less than a run of the mill and fairly predictable jog to the predictable conclusion (complete with music choices that will have the kids in the audience dance, dance, and dance). Suffice it to say that whilst this slice of cinematic pie does operate fairly well as leave your brain at the door entertainment and the cast of characters in this are fairly enjoyable you really shouldn’t be surprised by anything this narrative decides to throw your way.
The plot is as follows: In a world very much like ours with the exception that it is one which is populated with both iconic horror monsters who would rather have nothing to do with humans and humans who would have rather have nothing to do with the monsters, we see that the infamous Count Dracula is a single vamp of a dad who has declared to bring up his daughter Mavis the “right way”. A way that incidentally involves keeping her safe from humans at all costs since all humans want to do with monsters is let their curiosity find them only to then subsequently destroy them. To that end, we see that Drac decides to construct a place where all monsters can go far away from the prying eyes of human civilization and be safe. When our narrative begins proper however, we see that Mavis is about to turn 118 years old (in other words: bratty teen in human years) and Drac has decided to invite all of his monster pals to join in the festivities. Yet Mavis wants nothing to do with that. Instead she would much rather leave home and see the world with her own two eyes (you know like most teens around her age usually do plus or minus 100 years). Astonishingly for her however, we see that Drac decides to give her the chance to do so, but while out among the humans all she manages to encounter is hostile people wanting nothing more than to stab with a pitchfork or burn her with a torch. Yet whilst Mavis is completely unaware of the fact that this is all a scheme cooked up by her dear ol’ dad to keep her at home, we soon see that fate has other plans when a 21-year old human/avid monster lover by the name of Jonathan accidentally stumbles onto the castle grounds. Seeing no other options available to him, we see our poor beleaguered Drac make the choice to disguise this boy from his monster pals whilst also having to sit back and watch in agony as his little girl starts falling for this shudder human. Thus can our intrepid Count keep everything on the up and up or is this human boy going to topple everything he has tried for so long to uphold?
Now right off the bat I am prepared to say that Hotel Transylvania will most assuredly satisfy older viewers who have a love for iconic monsters and their various designs. Indeed this movie does brilliantly balance the look and vibe of this legends of cinema whilst also slightly tinkering with their animated look so certain intricacies are better utilized for comedy purposes, but in the process still keeping in the spirit and tone of their more iconic looks from their Universal days of ol’. Having said that though, I think Adam Sandler does fine as Drac in this, but his vocal work in this isn’t exactly game changing either. I mean yes he does manage to showcase the right tone and cadence for a voice that is one of the most infamous in film history, but it feels more like a stereotype of what people have come to expect from a Dracula performance rather than Dracula. Yes perhaps that is what this movie was wanting, but by wanting that you really take out any degree of passion that could have been present. Incidentally, that passion void isn’t just specific to the character of Dracula. I say that because a few of the other cast members, whilst also having fun with their respective parts, also have a degree of mehhh to their work in this since it feels like they are focusing more on tone rather than characterization. This is especially true in Selena Gomez’s turn as Mavis. No it’s not a horrible performance, but it does feel rather one-note especially in some of the character’s more emotional moments which are, surprise surprise, more teenager angst rather than a genuine desire to find one’s self. Yet even though this film’s voice cast is fairly one note in their delivery and the script is fairly and frustratingly predictable in every way possible and then some, the good news is there are still things that are praiseworthy about this film.
I say that because even if the aforementioned ingredients are by no means novel in any sense of the word, Hotel Transylvania still keeps audiences of all ages engaged with its lively mix of modern movie sensibilities and old school Hollywood monsters. Indeed the restoration of these iconic monsters is done both quite tastefully and with the purest of intentions at its heart. That and the manner in how this slice of cinematic pie blends together this typical castle in Transylvania with an eclectic group of monsters all being brought together for an integral birthday is one of the best things this movie has going for it. A fact that is possible since it makes these villains meek and the frightening relatable though I can’t say I’m surprised since this is a film meant to be enjoyed by kids. Be that as it may be, the movie is a fine little rainy day kind of movie and operates fairly well with a key idea that is both quite amusing and that doesn’t run for longer than it needed to even when faced with a hastily assembled script. Thus when you factor in the zany shenanigans of a human being in the middle of all these monsters and the various attempts to keep who he really is on the d.l. and you get a movie that will have movie goers giggling the whole way through. Yes a narrative that was made up of more than just ingredients we’ve seen a million times before would have been better, but in all fairness a person like me was not the intended audience for this film so make of that what you will. Indeed at the end of the day, this is a slice of cinematic pie that knows it’s meant for kids before anyone else and as such this film’s narrative is simplistic enough for kids to be able to follow though I do feel that older kids and adults might just find enough for them to enjoy here as well thus making for a delightful film the whole family can get behind.
All in all I think it is safe to say that Hotel Transylvania is one animated movie that has a voice cast that doesn’t really sound all that enthused about that particular roles to say nothing of a script that you can literally see every beat of it coming from a good solid mile away, but to heck with all of that. I say that because the audience that this slice of cinematic pie was made for (KIDS) are going to love this movie for its seemingly friendly gallery of iconic monster characters, very vivid colors, animation that is actually fairly well done, and a few song and dance moments that are all key parts to this movie. Suffice it to say then that even if you are someone who is aware of exactly how this movie is going to wrap things up before you even press play on your remote, the movie does contribute something that is good for rainy day watching and if you have kids then you know that this most assuredly will keep them entertained better than any babysitter you could hire. On a scale of 1-5 I give Hotel Transylvania “2012” a solid 3 out of 5.