Dracula (Adam Sandler) operates a hotel for monsters, far away from humans’ prying eyes, so that the monsters of the world can feel safe and secure. Things don’t last however, as on Dracula’s daughters 118th birthday, a human finds his way into the castle and falls in love with Mavis.
It seems there are more kids Halloween movies this year than there have been in a long time, and Hotel Transylvania falls right into the middle of this selection. The idea is a clever one, but it is one that feels immediately familiar. We have seen many films about fathers trying to protect their daughters – 10 Things I Hate About You springs to mind – and Monsters, Inc. wonderfully played with the idea that the monsters are more scared of us than we are of them. However, while the film feels slightly unoriginal, and descends into manic confusion, there are some throwaway lines and great sight gags that work in the movies’ favour.
Adam Sandler plays Dracula and, although it seems like he is doing an impression of Steve Carell from Despicable Me, his timing is still great and this may be his funniest film in years. What that says about the man’s career is really quite depressing though. Andy Samberg plays Jonathan, the pesky human who wanders into the hotel. Samberg plays up the feckless traveller within the character and, while his drawl and inability to grasp what is happening around him become annoying after a while, he is the counterbalance to Sandler’s highly strung Dracula.
Surprisingly, seeing as Monte Carlo was overblown and rather daft, Selena Gomez brings a tenderness and fragility to the role of Mavis, daughter of Dracula, and it is this performance that reminds audiences that Hotel Transylvania is not just a slapstick, madcap affair. Steve Buscemi, Kevin James CeeLo Green and Jon Lovitz provide the voices of various monsters, and they manage their roles well.
While Hotel Transylvania is a coming of age story in which a father must learn to trust those around him and let his daughter go, it feels messy and frantic at times. So many monsters are shoehorned into the story that it is difficult to remember who is what and why they are doing what they do. Most of the humour comes from sight gags – including a hilarious moment with an over zealous sponge – but again, this does not last long before reverting to slapstick and frantic silliness. In this way, the movie is definitely aimed at the younger members of the audience; the recent outing of The Three Stooges has reinforced the fact that older audiences do not always think people falling over is the height of sophisticated humour.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky has a history in animated TV shows, and his involvement in Dexter’s Laboratory is particularly evident in Dracula’s accent and the whirlwind of characters. Writer Robert Smigel is a frequent collaborator with Adam Sandler, which goes some way to explaining the story, but co-writer Peter Baynham has a history of working with Steve Coogan, which is a little disconcerting as Coogan’s humour is generally a little more sophisticated than this. However, if it were Baynham who came up with the idea of Scream Cheese, then bravo, sir.
Hotel Transylvania is definitely aimed at the under 8s in the audience and, while there are a couple of laughs in there, it is generally a frenetic and irritating affair that falls into familiar territory.