Movie review: Monsters' ball at 'Hotel Transylvania'
Adults should go see this one because Genndy Tartakovsky was at the helm.
Despite the decidedly Hollywood plot treatment, the 12-time Emmy Award nominee and brains behind such landmark Cartoon Network series like “Samurai Jack,” “Clone Wars,” and "Dexter's Laboratory" pulls off a decent coup of an animated movie set in the supernatural vein.
The setup is simple. Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) built Hotel Transylvania, a lavish “five-stake” resort, in the middle of the “land beyond the forest” so that monsters and their families can live it up, be free of human prying and persecution, and just relax as the monsters they are without any mortals to bother them.
It is at this hotel with outrageous isolation and security that Dracula has raised his only daughter, Mavis. His wife, we are casually told, was the victim of human violence, so Drac’s naturally skittish around anything that’s not undead.
At the heart of HT is the relationship of a father and daughter, orphaned of her mother. It is the story of paranoia and the perils of being a vampire dad. Meanwhile Mavis (Selena Gomez) is experiencing what every teenage girl undergoes during puberty: the hankering for something new, the lust for adventure. Except she’s been cooped up in the castle for 118 years.
“Like all fathers, he’s an overprotective, psychotic, and endearing guy who'd do anything for his daughter, but unlike other fathers, he’s the Prince of Darkness,” said Tartakovsky.
This year, it’s Mavis’ coming of age birthday, when Drac promised her she could go see the outside world. This special weekend means he’s also invited some of his best friends like Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Werewolf family, and a lot more. But the vampire’s greatest fear is losing his relationship with her and seeing her get hurt.
So he arranges for a “human” village to be built at the outskirts of his castle and urges his daughter to check it out. When she gets there the “humans” (actually played by his masked zombie servants) attack Mavis and so Drac’s plan goes off without a hitch, scaring his daughter into staying in the castle.
Thing is, the fires from the burning of the fake human village has attracted a backpacker named Johnny. He finds his way into the castle, which forces Dracula to disguise him as a monster (a hatchet job named Johnnystein), and where he ends up meeting Mavis and getting a romantic shine to the teenage vamp.
The visual touches that remind everyone these creatures are supernatural make this one fun for both kids and adults—in particular, the talking shrunken heads on each room’s doorknob to indicate “Do Not Disturb” or “Please Clean Room.” My fave thing is how Frankenstein (Kevin James) uses his separate parts (torso, arms, lower half, and head) to play pranks on his buddies for laughs.
Hotel security is outrageous and the visiting characters voiced by A-list celebs are what make this setting lively, as is the castle itself. The core posse being Dracula’s friends: Wolf Man Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green) and Frankenstein.
Adam Sandler channels a version of his “Saturday Night Live’s” Opera Man to bring dramatic and dignified Dracula to vocal life, while Fran Drescher reprises her grating Italian character from “The Nanny” as the similarly irritating Bride of Frankenstein.
Jonathan/Johnnystein (Andy Samberg) is the classic fish out of water, a Fool in the Tarotic sense, whose adventures take him into danger and out again in a blink via his chillaxed nature and open-to-anything vibe.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get the pants scared off him when he realizes everything’s real. His next reaction is awe, that ye olde “that’s cool” knee jerk. So, really, Johnny is the fun virus that shows everyone just how repetitive and stale everything’s gotten with their fear. Especially dusty old Dracula, who can’t flow with chaos at all.
Still, I must warn you that this is traditional children’s fare that harks back to cartoons of old with that requisite educational, moral bit at the end. There’s young love, letting go, conquering your fears, etc. It also means that the soundtrack is for a young audience. Yes, there’s a musical and dance sequence. Yes, auto-tuned pop music has wormed its way even into animated our fare—I tell you, the co-option of our tweens and young adults by aural refuse is complete.
It’s a fun thing to watch with your kids or if you just want something light to not think about when you go with your whole family to the theaters. You could do worse than a Tartakovsky movie. So go see the monsters and have some bloody good laughs. –KG, GMA News
"Hotel Transylvania" opens in Philippine theaters on Sept. 28.
Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures