See It or Skip It: Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler plays an overprotective Dracula trying to keep his one-hundred and eighteen year old daughter, Mavis, safe from the torches and pitchforks of humans. Dracula and Mavis live in the Hotel Transylvania, a massive edifice that promises protection from humans for all monsters while on the premises. Imagine his horror, when Jonathon, a human, stumbles into the lobby of his hotel, completely unaware of what he’s stumbled into. Dracula’s problems only increase when Jonathon meets his daughter and they start to fall in love. Now he must find a way to get Jonathon away from the hotel without the other monsters finding out he’s there, and without Mavis finding out that he’s gotten rid of him.

The voice cast of Hotel Transylvania is amazing and very talented, they all do a great job of bringing their characters to life, from Sandler’s over-the-top Dracula, to Steve Buscemi’s dry wit as the wolfman, and Kevin James’ wonderful Frankenstein, complete with “Fire bad” jokes. The animation style manages to give the old familiar monsters a unique look, though Mavis herself is definitely more Marilyn Munster than Wednesday Addams. She doesn’t even have pointed ears like her father and mother, though maybe they show up as she grows older. You can tell from watching the film how much work went into the design of each monster, and there are a ton of different creatures in the hotel, not just werewolves and vampires. Part of the fun for me was to see how many different types of monsters I could identify. This is definitely one to see in 3D, as there are plenty of sight gags and scenes that wouldn’t look as cool in the regular version.

The story is fairly thin. It revolves around Dracula attempting to keep Mavis from going off to the real world because he’s afraid of humans and thinks that they’ll kill her if they see her. He also wants to keep Jonathon away from Mavis so that she doesn’t fall any deeper in love with him and also so that she doesn’t discover he might be wrong about humans since a long time has passed since he dealt with them.  It’s a familiar tale, but the monsters and the setting make it if not a new story, at least one that’s watchable.

Despite having all these fabulous actors doing the voices, the excellent animation and character design, and plenty of funny moments, Hotel Transylvania never quite comes together as a film. I’ve tried very hard since seeing the movie, and I think it’s got to do with the sappiness at the core of the story. If you look at similar animated films like Paranorman and Despicable Me, they share a lot of elements with Hotel Transylvania, yet they manage to work as films where this one really doesn’t.

I think in putting this all together, the movie makers missed the darkness that’s in the heart of other films like it. It would’ve been pretty easy to add a dark gooey center to this movie, considering what happened to Mavis’ mother, but it’s largely glossed over except for one scene and I’m not even sure that Mavis actually knows what happened to her mom beyond a certain level. Dracula only discusses it with Jonathon. I think there’s also a lack of danger in the film, even when Dracula’s threatening Jonathon with all sorts of bad stuff, you know he’s not really going to do any of it, he’s just too nice of a guy.

In the end though, the monsters and the humor and the sheer spectacle of the film are almost enough to make that not matter too much. After all, when I saw the previews, it wasn’t the story that attracted me to the movie, it was seeing Adam Sandler play Dracula and the other crazy monster antics that made me want to see it.

If you’re a monster fan, or an Adam Sandler fan, then I’d say go see it. There’s a bit too much schmaltz at times, but the monsters and the humor made those moments bearable for me.