The Other Side of Animation: Hotel Transylvania Review

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Raise your virtual hand if you have an encyclopedic-sized book of insults and reasons why you hate Adam Sandler. If you raised your hand, and you literally have that type of book, then I’m not surprised. Adam Sandler always seems to be one of those odd anomalies in Hollywood, since he has racked up more bad movies than most actors, but due to how much money his films make, they let him keep making his films, or as they are known as, “glorified vacations”. Sure, I agree that he has a few good movies under his belt. When he isn’t directing, writing, or producing, and is just an actor, the movies turn out to be good, but he puts no effort into everything else he does. That is why today’s review is of one of his better movies, Hotel Transylvania. This was produced by Sony Pictures Animation, and directed by one of my favorite cartoonists, Genndy Tartakovsky. Hotel Transylvania was a film everyone thought would flop, but when it was released on September 28th of 2012, it garnered positive reviews and has a sequel already out in theaters. So, what do I think of the first film? Well, read on, my lovely vampires and monsters of the night.

The story revolves around Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler, who builds a huge castle/hotel to protect his daughter, Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez, and the rest of his kind from the outside world. On Mavis’s 118th birthday, the hotel has its first human step inside, named Jonathan, voiced by Andy Samberg. At first, Dracula is trying his best to get rid of Jonathan without any of the monsters knowing. Of course Mavis finds interest in Jonathan and shenanigans ensue.

Let’s talk about the best part of the film, its personality. This has to do a lot with the fast-paced animation and the designs of the characters. Every character has its own animation, and they move fluently. The art direction is gorgeous and unique, compared to a lot of films that try to copy the Pixar or Dreamworks style. It reminds me of older cartoons by the likes of Genndy Tartakovsky and his past experience with shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, and Symbiotic Titan. Like I said, the animation is very fast. It’s a hyperactive film, like The LEGO Movie. A lot of the humor comes from the jokes being based around the characters and the environment. For example, some of the best jokes come from David Spade’s character, The Invisible Man. What also helps is that a lot of the jokes are actually funny and don’t revolve around too much of the boring stuff that higher-ups think children’s films should have. Granted, there is a fart joke here and there, but 95% of the jokes can be picked up on by both kids and adults. This is easily one of the most expressive films I have ever seen. They put so much effort into each character’s movements that it feels like a 3D version of an old Looney Toons short. It’s also what I liked about Genndy’s CGI animation demo for Popeye, it’s not afraid to look like a cartoon. I also enjoyed the voice work. Some of these casting choices should have failed, like Adam Sandler as Dracula and Selena Gomez as Mavis, but they actually pull off some pretty good voice work. The entire cast does well working off one another, and it seems like they are all having fun with the movie. The rest of the voice cast is also spectacular, like Murray, voiced by Cee-lo Green (before he was a scumbag), Frankenstein and his wife, voiced by Kevin James and Fran Drescher, Wayne the werewolf, voiced by Steve Buscemi, and so on. Many times, these casting choices don’t work, since this film has a lot of Adam Sandler’s regular crew from his films, but they all sound like they had fun with their respective roles. They were being goofy, but not panderingly goofy like they are in a lot of other Adam Sandler projects.

It’s all the more shame that the story is not that interesting. The characters and basic story set-up is not overly engaging if you break down the tropes. You have the over-protective dad, the daughter who is cooped up at the hotel and wants to travel, the male lead from the outside world that will change the dad’s views, the squabbles, the misunderstanding that takes place near the third act, and so on. It’s not an original story. Maybe if they took a few different directions with the dad and the daughter characters, and didn’t flip-flop the relationship between Dracula and Jonathan, Andy Samberg’s character, then the film might have been well received a bit more. While I enjoyed a lot of the jokes and the fast cartoony animation, I think some of the more juvenile jokes like the farting gag could have been replaced. I also found Andy Samberg’s character a tad annoying. He tries to be this overtly hip young guy who looks like he was pulled right out of the 90s, and while I don’t think he is the worst aspect of the film, it really got grating at times.

This is one movie that I enjoyed, but can totally understand if people don’t care for it. The sequel just came out, and from what I have seen, it’s getting the same reception. A lot of people love it, but there are some mixed reviews as well. Personally, some of the critics are judging this way too harshly. I think this movie has more good than bad, and I’m glad they got such a talented director to helm the project. If you haven’t seen it, and want to see it before the sequel, I would recommend finding it for a cheap price. There is even a short film by Tartakovsky himself included, and I would watch anything done by him. So, where do we go from one of Adam Sandler’s best movies? Well, how about a more innocent Halloween film with Room on the Broom? Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!

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