There is nothing new or exciting in Hotel Transylvania’s story, yet it does its job by providing a copious amount of laughs from characters who are, if not anything else, well developed as classic screen monsters. The title hotel acts as a sanctuary where you will find such familiar characters as the Yeti, witches, zombies, the Invisible Man, werewolves, Quasimodo, Frankenstein’s monster and his wife, and of course, Dracula. All these monsters play themselves — or variations of themselves — and if they weren’t so likeable, Hotel Transylvania would’ve been a lesser movie, and that’s dangerous.
It begins with Dracula building the hotel in 1895. He’s also nurturing his daughter Mavis to be fearful of humans who, for most of his life during the dreaded 1800s, have sought to destroy him and his kind. This part of the story is a throwback to the classic horror movies. You know the imagery; torches ablaze, pitchforks, disgruntled bearded townsfolk. The monsters have grown cold towards the humans. There’s no fraternising, like in True Blood. Here, all the monsters seclude themselves from ordinary people, and the hotel becomes a safe haven, a cross between a fortress and a paradise.
It’s one of the movie’s great triumphs. It houses plenty of weird and freaky knick knacks, from shrunken-head “do not disturb” signs to zombie bellhops, who can’t be receiving many tips for efficiency. Though to be sure, efficiency isn’t a prerequisite to the hotel’s success.
The story, though, is fairly routine. The monsters detest humans, so you can be sure that a human will inevitably find his way to the castle and disrupt the peace (there’s an amusing slideshow about the threat of humans that hits the right notes). You can also be sure that this human will teach the monsters a thing or two about life in the 21st century, and that he will fall irrevocably in love with Mavis, who’s 118 years old but has to, for the sake of the plot, look like a deviant 18-year old.
All these facets must come together, and they culminate in a song and dance number that goes over the top and dislodges itself from the fantasy of the rest of the movie. But I suppose it’s there for its target audience.
The movie’s directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the famed cartoonist of classic Cartoon Network shows like Dexter’s Laboratory. Much of the zaniness from his early days can be found in Hotel Transylvania — including his trademarks of boneless figures and use of shadows — and the animation from Sony is as vibrant in colour and quality as any of the good Pixar movies. The voice cast, too, lends a considerable amount of charm to the characters. There’s Adam Sandler as Dracula, Andy Samberg as the human, Selena Gomez as Mavis, and Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Cee Lo Green, and David Spade make up the rest of the monsters. Most surprising of all is Sandler, whose voice is unrecognisable. This is a good thing; usually I find him irritating.
I compare Hotel Transylvania’s animation to Pixar, but I cannot compare the story. It falls short in terms of depth and maturity. It is clearly for the younglings, and adults might have a difficult time enjoying the craziness. With a Pixar movie, there is something for everyone to enjoy exclusively; there are jokes only the kids will get, and there are themes and messages that will wash right over their heads and land on the adults. With a movie like this, everyone sits on the same plane and absorbs the colours and sounds together.
Best Moment | The classic animation style of Genndy Tartakovsky during the end credits, where all the movie’s characters are drawn in the vein of Dexter’s Laboratory. Nostalgia much?
Worst Moment | The closing song and dance number. I get it, but it’s silly.