The early 2000s were animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s playground. Fresh off success directing The Powerpuff Girls, he went on to create Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars (the original one). The natural transition to features films, though, never happened. Until Hotel Transylvania.
His manic, angular animation is perfect for this story of Count Dracula, who creates a monsters-only hotel in order to keep his baby girl safe from the world’s dreaded, evil humans. Tartakovsky, seeming a bit like Tim Burton’s sillier cousin, makes Hotel Transylvania a cute, kid-friendly mash-up of Monsters Inc. and Twilight. Emphasis on kid.
Single-dad Dracula (Adam Sandler) is throwing a birthday party for little (well, 118-year-old) adolescent daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). And all of Dracula’s buddies are invited, including Murray the Mummy (CeeLo), Werewolves Wayne and Wendy (Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon), Frankenstein (Kevin James), and Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade).
Things are going along splendidly (well, except for Wayne and Wanda’s marauding horde of toddler wolves) until a rock-climber human dude named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) drops by– the first human to step inside the hotel since it was built (“Human-free since 1898!”).
Mavis (natch) falls for Jonathan, Jonathan (duh) digs on Mavis, and Dracula (slapstick ensues!) is running around trying to prevent panic by having Jonathan pretend he’s Frankenstein’s cousin.
Buy tickets online for Hotel Transylvania at Essex Cinemas and Cumberland 12.
The screenplay by Peter Baynham (Arthur Christmas) and Saturday Night Live stalwart Robert Smigel (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) is goofy and juvenile, with plenty of jokes about butts and nose-picking. And while there are a few bones tossed to the adults in the audience, there aren’t nearly enough to make it overly enjoyable for anyone older than, say, twelve.
The voice cast all does nice work (even Sandler), with Buscemi and Gomez standing out particularly. Fran Drescher even has a few fun moments as Frankenstein’s bride, Eunice.
Tartakovsky’s animation style is just as fluid and goofy as Megamind, and there are plenty of moments (including a zippy race involving dining room tables) where the 3D pays off. Little ones needn’t worry– there’s nothing at all that could be construed as scary or intense, except for maybe when Dracula quickly flashes his ‘scary face’ a few times.
Overall, Hotel Transylvania doesn’t have enough going for it that adults will remember it past this weekend, but the kiddos will eat it up, and you could certainly do a lot worse.
You’ll no doubt have a pleasant stay, but it’s doubtful you’ll go back again anytime soon.
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@popcollin is the resident movie critic at Essex Cinemas in Essex, VT, and Cumberland 12 in Plattsburgh, NY.