When your movie’s main character consists of Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) repeating “bluh bluh-bluh,” you better have something more up your sleeves than “blah blah-blah.” Unfortunately for director Genndy Tartakovsky, that’s about all he really has going in his big screen debut, Hotel Transylvania. After cutting his teeth in the land of TV (including but not limited to his work on the Emmy-winning Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Emmy-nominated Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory), it seems as if maybe Tartakovsky has lost some of his bite with Sandler’s cronies joining the party.
Beginning in 1895, Dracula is keeping busy taking care of and entertaining his young daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez). Professionally, Dracula has aspired to build a giant vacation fortress sanctuary for his fellow monsters to escape from the monster-hating humans. Everyone from Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James) and his bride Eunice (voiced by Fran Drescher), werewolves Wayne (voiced by Steve Buscemi) and Wanda (voiced by Molly Shannon), mummy Murray (voiced by CeeLo Green), and Griffin (voiced by David Spade) the invisible man, have come to celebrate Mavis’s 118th birthday. While Dracula has kept Mavis secluded inside the castle her entire existence, it’s not until backpacking Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) accidentally stumbles into the hotel that dear daddy Drac’s plans begin to go awry.
In another battle of tug of war, Tartakovsky does everything he can to try and fill the film with (sometimes) brilliant visual gags while writers Peter Baynham (Arthur Christmas, Borat) and Robert Smigel (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, TV Funhouse, and creator of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) give the voice cast next to nothing to do say as it gets inexplicably smothered in a slathering of family-friendly sap. On a positive note, at least every scene involving Mavis surprisingly works, feeling good-natured and even sweet, but it’s no surprise that this is always when another supporting character shows up to try and spoil things.
If the film had focused more on the budding relationship between Mavis and Jonathan they could’ve been onto something. But alas, monsters just wanna have fun and the humans are a huge afterthought even though we’re supposed to be a big plot twist when they find out we’ve evolved from torch wielding mobs to tweens in love with glittering “vampires.” I guess maybe the best part is that if as parents you can get past the idea of Frankenstein pulling fart pranks; it is nice to see the likes of the original monster squad back together on the big screen. Anything that can serve as a springboard to a child’s classic film appreciation gets a pass in my book and that’s where Hotel Transylvania should’ve really focused its aspirations.
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