Monday, October 29, 2012

Hotel Transylvania

Premiered September 28, 2012

In this family film offering from Sony Pictures,  Dracula (Adam Sandler) capably runs a five-star resort for monsters.  It is secluded and surrounded by booby traps to prevent it from being discovered by humans.  (Drac and his fellow monsters have had some problems with humans in the past.)   One of Dracula's primary motivations for creating the hotel is, Mavis (Selena Gomez), his only daughter and the apple of his eye. 

Dracula sings to li'l Mavis - "Hush little baby, don't say a word, papa's going to bite the head off a bird"

As tends to happen with children, they grow up, and as Mavis' 118th birthday approaches, she begins to express a desire to go out and explore the world on her own.

Mavis has wanderlust

This worries Dracula, but he allows her to venture out of the castle  ...
Mavis on her first trip out of the castle - it must be fun to be able to turn into a bat
But his fatherly over-protectiveness of his daughter causes him to enact an elaborate scheme involving a fake village and zombies disguised as torch-weilding humans to convince Mavis that the outside world is a scary place so that she will not want to leave home.

Mavis is disappointed but Dracula tries to comfort her with the party he's got planned for her.  He has invited Frankenstein's monster (Kevin James) and the Bride of Frankenstein (Fran Drescher) as well as Wayne & Wanda Wolfman (Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon) (and their large unruly brood of little wolf pups), Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green),  Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) and a host of other monsters to help celebrate.  

Drac and friends are ready to celebrate

Much to Dracula's dismay, an unexpected guest in the form of Jonathan (Andy Samberg) - a surfer-dude human who has somehow penetrated the castle's elaborate defenses -- arrives on the scene.  Rather than have the human terrorize his guests, Dracula disguises him as a monster (Johnny-Stein!) and attempts to spirit him out of the castle without success.   In desperation,  Dracula tries to pass him off as a party planner.
Johnny meets Mavis and (gasp!) seems to be developing an interest in her.  Worse still (from Drac's point of view), Mavis seems to reciprocate Jonathan's interest!  As far as Dracula is concerned, this situation is truly monstrous.    A comedy of hidden identities and silly misunderstandings results.

Mavis and Jonathan (in a monster disguise) meet-cute

RigbyMel says:

Hotel Transylvania is the feature-length directorial debut of Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, among other shows).   While it is a fun little family film, it's  not a great one, due to a rather pedestrian storyline - overprotective father needs to learn to let his child grow up, blah blah,  romantic comedy style meet cute, boy meets-loses-regains girl - "zing" blah blah. Granted,  I am not the target audience and the children at whom the movie is aimed haven't seen this sort of plot a million times before, but I found myself wishing for just a bit more cleverness from the screenplay overall.  After all, the best family films have something to keep the adults just as engaged as the kiddos.

What do you mean, it's not as interesting for adults? 

This is especially unfortunate because the visuals are rather amazing.
There are all kinds of delightful details to dig up if you're paying attention -- which you might not be as the story is so ... well ... boring.

What visit to a luxury hotel is complete without a dip in the pool? 

For example, the bellhops are zombies,  the housekeeping staff is comprised mostly of witches, security is headed up by a seemingly empty but animate suit of armor and Quasimodo Jones (Jon Lovitz)  is the chef/villain who is suspicious that Jonathan in Monster-Drag might not be the monster he says he is.  There is even a Day of the Dead style skeletal mariachi band, which made me very happy.

"Day of the Dead" mariachi band

Also Mavis (especially in bat form) is adorable.  Witness:

Mavis rocking the "Bat Eyes"

Plus,  there is some well-deployed voice talent at play here - I am not generally a fan of Adam Sandler or Andy Samberg, but they work well in this.   Also, the supporting cast is great,  especially Steve Buscemi as the beleaguered family/wolf-man.   It's just too bad they aren't given more to do that evokes more than the odd weak chuckle every now and again.

Although this film is not explicitly set on or around Halloween,  the monsters and the spooky details (plus the autumnal release date) certainly seem intended for the spooky season. There is even a "Monster Festival" that comes into play.

All in all, this is an okay family flick that could have been great had they taken a little more time and trouble with the story.   There are worse ways to spend an afternoon and it will certainly get children in the Halloween spirit.

My rating:
2 Jack O'Lanterns

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