Hotel Transylvania (2012)
★ / ★★★★
Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) builds Hotel Transylvania not only as a haven for monsters but also a place where his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), can grow up and live a life that is away from humans. Over the years, Dracula has led his fellow monsters to believe that people hate their kind, that monsters are meant to be maimed and destroyed. When a backpacker named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) ends up in the hotel during Mavis’ one hundred eighteenth birthday, however, Dracula’s lies to his daughter and community finally come to light. Maybe not all humans are intolerant of monsters.
Despite the glitz, color, and energy of “Hotel Transylvania,” it is ultimately hampered by a screenplay that touches upon too many themes without devoting the necessary time and attention to any of them. The central lesson about tolerance is often upended by a possible romance, constant whining between father and daughter, and initially funny jokes recycled so many times that sitting through them becomes a miserable experience.
The best thing it has going for it are the supporting characters that have been already embraced by popular culture. Most visually appealing is a Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green), the way his eyes glow behind those white wrappings and the manner in which he jumbles about as he moves from one spot to another. Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Frankenstein (Kevin James), and Bigfoot, occasionally appearing as one giant foot, are welcome but mostly uninspired additions. It is a shame that other than about two jokes regarding our stereotypes of them, they are not given anything interesting to do or say. They are a bore at times because they seem to share one personality. For instance, when Dracula’s lies are exposed, not one of them is given an appropriate reaction.
The script is confused. It is bizarre that Dracula is immediately unlikeable when he is supposed to be the conduit between the monster and human spheres. If the first scene had established the reason why Dracula has grown to dislike humans, perhaps the character’s foibles would have been more tolerable. Instead, the very protective father earning our sympathy becomes a pointless uphill battle. The interactions he has with his daughter are supposed to have a level of sensitivity but since a clear motivation is lacking, not only do they seem forced, they also scream a lack of sophistication. It becomes noticeable that the writing is barely there. The more the characters speak, it is all the more transparent that they do not actually say anything worth listening to.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, “Hotel Transylvania” will mostly appeal to very young kids with very short attention spans. There is something flying or being thrown across the room in every other scene. But for children, teens, and adults who want to feel either a sense of wonder from putting these memorable monsters in one place or something genuine between a parent and his child, such qualities are absent here. A picture book about classic monsters that require only five minutes to peruse is better than spending ninety minutes you will never get back.