Adam Sandler has earned himself a less than stellar reputation over the years. Despite a near record 11 Golden Raspberry nominations, he hasn’t learned to say “no,” or at least “yes” to a better quality of film. But it seems that he can turn out entertaining movies, so long as his role behind the scenes is limited. Though his fingerprints are smudged all over this one, they’re easier to look past.
As it happens, he and his usual cast of suspects are much more palatable in animated, family friendly form. An ostensibly old fashioned story about an overprotective father with a teenage girl – in this case, an 118 year old vampire, Hotel Transylvania is not daring or innovative, but it is sweet and serviceable. The film takes you where you expect to go, offering a few delightfully animated surprises along the way.
Dracula (Sandler) shuts himself off from the human world after they murder his wife, and he erects a haven high in the hills of Transylvania for monsters and the undead. He is most committed to the safety of his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), however, and spends the next century trying to instill in her a fear of humans. A girl can’t just sit around a castle all day though, and she’s itching to get out and meet people her own age, sort of. On her big 118th birthday, Dracula allows her to explore a nearby village.
Her short adventure leaves her spooked, which is just what daddy planned. What he didn’t expect, however, was the appearance of loopy bro backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg), who accidentally wanders into the human-free safe zone. Jonathan throws Dracula’s party plans into disarray, since he’s invited practically all of the monster world for the big bash. As the host tries to get rid of his new guest and keep his human identity secret, a young, cross-species (?) love begins to bloom.
The film is a reunion of Sandler regulars, like Kevin James as Frankenstein and David Spade as the Invisible Man. But it’s the appearance of Samberg that really gets the ball rolling. He brings a frenetic energy that gives the film a good kick in the early going but that soon spins out of control. Jonathan is a zany character that kids might enjoy, but I found his dude-ish, Dave Matthews Band personality grating after awhile, unappealing even for a home schooled teen craving human contact. The film’s middle section is also a lot of non-stop clanging and banging with quieter moments backloaded and subsequently rushed. There’s enough material to explore Dracula’s emotional growth and to give Jonathan added dimension, but that’s substituted literally with noise. Still, Mavis’s wide-eyed wonder and goodness made me smile. She can’t let go of the idea of garlic bread, which I suppose is a little strange.
“Problem (The Monster Remix)” by Becky G f. Will.i.am:
Prod: Michelle Murdocca
Dir: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writer: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Cee-Lo Green, Chris Parnell, Brian George
Time: 92 min
Country: United States