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A nonhuman father doesn’t want his daughter to see the world and he does everything in his power to keep her from leaving his sight, even when she becomes infatuated with a human. No, Disney hasn’t released the The Little Mermaid in 3D (yet) — that’s the story for Sony’s Hotel Transylvania, though it doesn’t do nearly as much as the Disney Classic did with this conventional plot.
Hotel Transylvania doesn’t even boast a conflict of urgency or much consequence, so there is not much to expect other than monotony and watch-checking. The film throws broad humor at its audience with relentlessness, but very little of that humor sticks.
Excessive monster puns and tropes clutter much of the film’s first act, though they pervade the rest of the film as well. Adam Sandler’s comic take on Dracula doesn’t help, and only mixed results arise from the hotel residents scattered about the lobby. Kevin James’ Frankenstein doesn’t go anywhere in regards to laugh or character, and Fran Drescher’s work as his wife, Eunice, relies far too much on knowing about the actress’ persona to work in the context of the film itself. As the werewolf Wayne, Steve Buscemi steals the scenes and perhaps gets some of the few laughable moments in “Transylvania,” while Cee Lo Green provides merely passable work as the mummy named Murray.
A good 10 minutes dwells on the monsters carrying on without much rhyme or reason, which gives “Transylvania” the opportunity to provide its audience with visual puns. However, such jokes tend to lean toward the familiar more than they do the unique, interesting, or funny. There’s even a fart joke in there. Yes, it’s that kind of film.
Andy Samberg’s dopey human Jonathan then enters the hotel, much to the shock and dismay of Dracula. Instead of portraying the admittedly one-dimensional character in a stereotypical way, Samberg’s voice work at least gives the simpleminded dude/bro a bit of spunk and personality, guaranteeing that he steals scenes from Sandler’s Dracula with ease. It’s during Samberg’s entrance that “Transylvania” ever so slightly picks up.
Of course, what’s the inciting incident for other than to get things moving along? Still, the movie’s lack of originality (there might be minimal fart jokes, but “Transylvania” as a whole reeks of cliché) ensures that such a rise in interest doesn’t lead to anything substantial or even briefly promising. Even when Jonathan really sets the plot in motion by meeting and falling for Dracula’s overprotected daughter Mavis, voiced impressively by Selena Gomez, “Transylvania” falls short by the second and third acts we can see coming from miles away.
But that’s not to completely dismiss “Transylvania.” The voice work on the whole isn’t too shabby, and it does have a strong moral core such as a lesson on not generalizing about others. Even then, that moral grab can be predicted in the first few minutes, when Dracula speak to then-baby Mavis about the dangers of humans and how they kill monsters.
Still, one might think that Genndy Tartakovsky would direct a feature-film debut with more panache and edge like his television series Samurai Jack. Instead, the three-time Emmy Award winner sticks with what we’ve seen time and time again. Even with a colorful voice cast, “Transylvania” fails to elicit laughter or emotion in any way.
With Brave setting forth a feminist-light narrative and ParaNorman achieving forwardness in a myriad of ways, it’s nice to see the trend of progressive messages in animation continue with “Transylvania,” but as for the movie itself, it achieves quite little.