Review of Hotel Transylvania


Movie Review: "Hotel Transylvania"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2012
Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Genre: Animation, Comedy, and Family

It is no secret that vampires are everywhere these days. From the sulking teenagers of "Twilight" to the gritty antiheroes of "True Blood," it is hard to flip through channels or check movie listings without coming in contact with the undead. Yet most vampire fare is not suitable for younger viewers. Bringing vampires down to a PG rating might seem like a difficult feat, but director Genndy Tartakovsky manages the challenge admirably. Instead of inventing a whole new cast of characters, Tartakovsky instead goes back to basics. "Hotel Transylvania" takes its inspiration from the most famous bloodsucker of all: Count Dracula.

In this fresh and updated take, Dracula (Adam Sandler) is not really such a bad guy. Sure, he might be undead, but is that any reason to treat him like a monster? Unfortunately, villagers in the 1890s seem to think so. Dracula is just a caring family man, but humans cannot forget the "drinks blood" part of his job description. As a result, Dracula ends up a single father to his baby daughter.

Fast-forward one hundred years or so, and Dracula has managed to make a comfortable life for himself. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), is just about to turn 118 years old. In vampire years, this is roughly equivalent to eighteen in human years. In other words, Dracula is dealing with a rebellious teen. Dracula has not forgotten the incident that lost him his soul mate. Living in fear of humans, the vampire now runs a secret and exclusive resort. This is where other monsters can come and relax, enjoying time away from the prying eyes of human beings.

In honor of Mavis' birthday, Dracula decides to host a lavish party, inviting all the luminaries of the monster world. The guest list includes the Invisible Man (David Spade), Frankenstein (Kevin James), Werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), and plenty of other things that go bump in the night. Dracula hopes that this blowout will distract Mavis from her recent restlessness, since she is ready to spread her bat wings and leave the nest. Regrettably, all of Dracula's careful planning ends up being a bust when an uninvited guest shows up at the resort. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) is not just a party crasher. He is a human being.

Dracula has to think quickly to keep his guests from finding out that a dreaded human is on the premises. Grudgingly, he lets Jonathan stay, disguised as a monster. However, no disguise can help Dracula ignore the fact that his young daughter is falling in love with his worst enemy. The undead count will have to come to some important realizations about trust, protectiveness, and acceptance if he wants to keep his daughter in his life.

The real test of any kids' movie is whether Mom and Dad are laughing along too. When parents know they can enjoy a movie just as much as their kids, filmmakers have struck box office gold. "Hotel Transylvania" has some genuinely witty moments. Whenever the monsters are interacting together, the cleverness is sure to draw some laughter from more savvy audience members, especially fans of classic horror. However, a few of the jokes rely too much on juvenile lavatory humor. While this will delight the younger audience members, the adults might roll their eyes. In the end, though, the movie needs to appeal to kids, and it definitely succeeds on this level.

The animation is vibrant and zany, with lots of physical comedy. In addition, Adam Sandler turns in amazing and versatile voice work as Dracula, bringing a warm, relatable side to the cold-blooded vampire. It is hard to imagine making Dracula fresh and interesting again, but nobody else has explored his vulnerable side quite as well as Tartakovsky. Seeing Dracula as a doting father definitely has its charms.

Parents are likely to feel more comfortable about letting their young children watch this film rather than "Twilight." The movie is earnest, bright, and wholesome. For a movie about vampires, it is surprisingly sunny. There may not be any deep insights, but the theme of the bond between parents and children never gets old in family-oriented fare. "Hotel Transylvania" is the kind of movie that captures the fun of Halloween, showing a world where spooky monsters and famous ghouls play charades together and dream of getting along with humans.

Rating: 4 out of 5