Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Cee Lo Green, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade PG cert, general release, 91 min
IT’S COME TO this. Vampires are over. It’s official. How else might one explain Hotel Transylvania, in which an overprotective Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler, must accept that daughter Selena Gomez is all growed up?
The hotel is a luxury hideaway for monster folk, among them Kevin James as Frankenstein’s monster, Cee Lo Green as a jolly, singing mummy, and Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon as Wayne and Wanda Werewolf.
Anxious dad Dracula is already having difficulty with his daughter’s campaign for greater independence when a human backpacker (Andy Samberg) stumbles into the vamplet’s 118th birthday. Just to complicate matters, she and the interloper zing. They what? They zing: oh, you’ll know all about it by the end credits.
Fans of Genndy Tartakovsky’s dazzling oeuvre (Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars) may feel rightly dismayed to encounter Hotel Transylvania, the animator’s first theatrical feature. The characters and story, forged by six different directors and many more writers over a six-year-production stint, leave little room for Tartakovsky tricks and tics. Certainly, the director has cartoonish fun with movement, dimensions and an enhanced Invisible Man (David Spade). But there’s little to visually distinguish these stock characters from the screening-online Bratzillaz/ Monster High oeuvre.
Of the three gothically themed pictures on offer this season, Transylvania is considerably weaker than ParaNorman and the incoming Frankenweenie. So why has it triumphed so convincingly at the box office while these better pictures have struggled?
Hotel Transylvania may not be nuanced enough to compete with the lovingly crafted screenplays and carefully developed characters of the two others, but its lack of sophistication – the garish palate, the flashy 3D, a plot that might have been lifted from a live-action Sandler family picture – is likely part of the appeal.
Weary parents will sigh and sharpen their stakes, but smaller folks will be perfectly content with the film’s monster mash of puppy love, silly voices, shoehorned musical numbers and flatulence gags. It’s come to this.