Hotel Transylvania is Finding Nemo for Monsters

Hotel Transylvania – 2012

Director Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring (voices) Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samburg, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Cee Lo Green, Molly Shannon
Screenplay by Peter Baynam, Robert Smigel,Tartakovsky

So after all of this time, I finally decided to figure out whether Transylvania really exists.  It does.  It’s somewhere in Romania.  Vampires, Zombies, Frankenstein and Werewolves, on the other hand…they are real, too.  Real box office draws.  This time around, the magic of movie monsters meets the box office draw of animated film.  This is the kind of film that one sees more at the behest of their kids than they would on their own.  But then again, it is an Adam Sandler film, starring most of his pals.  Seeing a kids film with those guys actually could be considered an uptick on the intelligence and maturity scale.

As it stands, this film is about as subtle as is possible for Sandler’s gang to play it.  As Count Dracula, Sandler has been a tad protective of his daughter, Mavis (Gomez).  Now, at 118, he is seemingly going to come through on his promise to let his daughter finally see the world.  Things don’t go as planned for her, but they do work out for him, until a young hippy traveler makes his way (quite accidentally) to the hidden hotel he runs exclusively for his Monster friends.

Sandler presents himself as a slightly less retentive version of Marlin, from Finding Nemo. This time around, Nemo isn’t necessarily going to get lost, but it won’t prevent him from being just as annoying as Albert Brooks.

His friends are actually somewhat amusing.  Frank (James) likes economy travel, puts up with his shrill wife (Drescher) and really thinks “Fire bad.”  As Murray the Mummy, Cee Lo Green provides an electric front man.  The best, however is Wayne (Buscemi), his peaceful, pregnant wife Wanda (Shannon), with their endless amount of wild kids.  The tolerant looks given by Wayne as his children wreak havoc are something that really resonates with any parent who drags their barely behaving kids to the theater.

The story has its moments, like the dance performed with tables and the opening lobby scene.  Overall, it barely amounts to anything more than a series of decent moments held together by a shoestring plot.  The one liners, almost certainly provided by Triumph The Insult Comic Dog‘s Smigel, have a punch to them.  What’s missing is the subtlety that one gets in a Pixar plot or something in the Madagascar series.  Andy Samberg’s Johnny is good example of the good, but not complicated approach.  He goes back and forth between references to Dave Matthews Band, world-travelling advice for 118 year old teens and giving lessons to the old man.  His character really is quite dull.  The movie makes him an annoying kid that no father would want for his daughter, and then inexplicably makes Dracula accepting of him over other humans.

Towards the end, there is a mad rush to bring the idea of love from something two people work for and replace it with something called “Zing” which is equated to a feeling.  You know, love at first sight…forever.  Just like fairies, zombies and witches.  This seems like a cop out and just a way to get a catch phrase with a song attached to it.

My kids loved this film, and I suppose that counts for something.  On the other hand, I really loved H.R. Pufnstuf when I was a kid.  There is no accounting for taste in the youth.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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