[Review] – Hotel Transylvania

7 Oct

Title: Hotel Transylvania
Year: 2012
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writers: Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, based on a story by Todd Durham, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Cee Lo Green, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade
MPAA Rating: PG, some rude humor, action and scary images
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Metacritic: 48

Even if you don’t know his name, chances are you’ve seen (and most likely loved) Genndy Tartakovsky‘s work for quite some time. Under his tenure at Cartoon Network he is the man that got everyone to get wrong the French translation of “cheese omelette” with Dexter’s Laboratory, that created the epic style of Samurai Jack as well as spearheaded Star Wars: Clone Wars, all three of those being shows that are amongst the classics of contemporary animated television series. Then in early 2011 he left Cartoon Network for Sony Pictures Animation where he was set to direct his first feature film, Hotel Transylvania, which we now get to feast our eyes upon.

The film, which scored the highest opening weekend ever for both Sony Pictures Animation as well as for any film opening in September, however, wasn’t all that great. Maybe it was because I was expecting too much from Mr. Tartakovsky’s film debut but I just didn’t get this one at all. What I love so much about the stuff this man has done with his TV projects is that they are shows that are tremendously popular with kids but are also adored just as much, if not more so, by adults. I wanted that with Hotel Transylvania and it was just nowhere to be found.

Sure, this is the film business and money comes first and whatnot so maybe that forced Mr. Tartakovsky to go a little broader and whatnot, but the fact remains that even though kids will probably have a good time with the amusing gags this film throws at them, the adults in the audience will think it’s all about too loud and realize that the script is just utterly flawed and absolutely shallow. Considering the voice cast pretty much reads like a Happy Madison production, what with Adam Sandler, Kevin James and David Spade all being a part of it, then I guess you could have anticipated a mediocre and childish feel, but I was just holding out for something more.

I’m not saying this is an absolutely horrible film, mostly because, like I said, I do still think kids will get a kick out of it, so at least that it succeeds, it’s just that even the premise had me thinking this could turn out to be an animated gem. The titular hotel is one actually owned by Dracula, the character Mr. Sandler voices, and it’s this place where all the monsters in the world can go to to get a respite from their dealings with actual human civilization. And we really do get to see a slew of the most famous monsters here, from Frankenstein to the Invisible Man, as Dracula invites them all to celebrate the 118th birthday of Mavis, his “teenage” daughter voiced by Selena Gomez.

The main conflict of the movie comes when Jonathan, a regular human traveler, unexpectedly stumbles into the hotel and Dracula realizes he must deal with him somehow before Mavis falls in love with him. This whole storyline of course is made seem pretty damn ironic when the time comes when Dracula catches a glimpse of a scene from Twilight and is hugely offended as he sees Edward Cullen sparkling in the light. Ironic of course because, except for the fact that the girl is the guy in this version, this kind of plays like Twilight with Mavis falling for someone who isn’t her kind.

I was just really disappointed by how much this film lacked as far as how it had no kind of edge whatsoever. For some reason this late-summer season (or maybe early-fall, I guess) has been all about animated films involving monsters, from the stellar ParaNorman, to which I gave a hearty A- and currently stands as my 20th favorite film of the year, to this one and to Tim Burton‘s Frankenweenie which was released a couple of days ago and which I haven’t seen yet. ParaNorman showed it could be visually stunning and funny and super witty while still hugely appealing to kids; Hotel Transylvania offers its supernatural creatures as cheap punch-lines to worn-out jokes, many of them of a scatological nature.

Honestly, look at all the monsters here. Kevin James is Frankenstein and Fran Drescher is his wife, David Spade is the Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon are married werewolves, Cee Lo Green is an obese mummy, Jon Lovitz is Quasimodo. You have all of these iconic monsters voiced by big names and you make them all simple one-joke creations. Something that’s especially annoying when you consider the script was written by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, the former an Oscar nominee for his Borat script and the latter a Saturday Night Live veteran. You’d think something much, much funnier would come from those guys penning a film with this premise and talent.

Now, to be fair to Mr. Tartakovsky, this movie was actually green-lit about six years ago and there have been just as many directors who have been handed the keys to the project at one time or another. So you could maybe say that the stuff that’s super crappy about this film was super crappy before he came in, especially that script that required quantity over quality and you could say that the stuff that does work is because of him. Because, don’t get me wrong, there is stuff here that work, there are a few scenes here are just utter visual triumphs that are just that because of what Mr. Tratakovsky dared to do with them.

Still, that’s not enough to make Hotel Transylvania good. I actually don’t even recommend this one and it’s really hard for me not to give a recommending grade to animated flicks, mostly because most of them are aimed at kids and they do their job in that respect, but the fact of that matter is that there are better options out there right now if you want to entertain a young one. The narrative just plain sucks here and what’s more, even if the visual style was great I didn’t really think it meshed with the comedy of the script so yeah, Hotel Transylvania was just too messy for me. Genndy Tartakovsky: your first try at a feature left me wanting (much) more, but I’m still psyched as hell to see what you do next.

Grade: C+


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