Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

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When an animated movie features creepy monsters and old castles, it’s a given that you’re going to see as many adults in the theater as kids – usually more so. This time of year, films like Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and 2012’s Paranorman come to mind. But Hotel Transylvania is not that kind of movie.

When I walked into the theater, I was stunned to see the place packed to the rafters with kids under the age of 12 – and accompanying parents trying to juggle their $5 Cokes and $8 popcorn.  I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to the trailers for Hotel Transylvania, but it was apparent these folks knew something I didn’t.

As it turns out, this really is a film aimed straight at the kiddie crowd. Like a 7-year-old hopped up on Dr. Pepper and Pixie Sticks, Hotel Transylvania is hyper-kinetic, particularly in the first ten minutes, when there’s so much going on it makes your head spin a little. The movie is full of silly sight gags and fart jokes – the kind of juvenile stuff you’d expect from Adam Sandler, who provides the voice of Dracula. Additional voice cast include Selena Gomez who plays Dracula’s daughter MavisDavid Spade (the Invisible Man),  Kevin James (Frankenstein), and Steve Buscemi who plays a weary Wolfman with way too many pups.

After losing his wife, Dracula flees the village and builds a secret castle… ‘er hotel, deep in the forest, where only monsters are allowed. Every year these monsters travel from far and wide for a little relaxation and a respite from the dangers of humans. But on the eve of Mavis’ 118th birthday party, a stranger threatens to ruin everything when backpacking teen Johnathan (Andy Sandberg) stumbles upon the festivities.

Johnathan immediately catches Mavis’ eye – and incurs the wrath of her father, who is not only afraid his daughter will fall for a human boy and leave the castle, but that his reputation will be ruined by this breach in security.

Hotel Transylvania is sort of like Little Mermaid for kids who like monsters instead of fish. It’s a coming of age story about the conflict between a teen girl who wants her independence, and an overprotective father who’s afraid to let her go. But unlike Little Mermaid, the sheer volume of juvenile slapstick will keep this movie from becoming the kind of classic animated film that both kids and parents love to watch.

Don’t get me wrong – the ankle biters will eat this stuff up. When one of the werewolf boy-pups hikes his leg and pees on a couch, the kid in front of me almost fell out of his seat. But I suspect Hotel Transylvania will end up being one of those movies that make parents cringe when little Susie slaps it into the BluRay player for the 87th time in a week.

Rating: 2.5/5 ★★½☆☆ 

Ironically, the best way for an adult to enjoy this film might be to not watch it at all. Random House and Titan Books recently published a beautiful hardbound book called The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania, filled with detailed profiles of each characters, artist concept sketches, and more. I’ll be posting a separate review of this book shortly, so stay tuned…

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About Dave_P

Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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