Hotel Transylvania (2012)
A chaotic, flashy, thoughtless nightmare of an animated feature, Hotel Transylvania is the sort of film that never changes the sheets and has no running water. This Genndy Tartakovsky-helmed catastrophe is another kick at the 3D CGI can from the unexceptional Sony Pictures Animation. It is a hopeless debacle, somehow collecting a Golden Globe nomination in the process.
If there’s a pro to Hotel Transylvania, it’s that it will probably divert your annoying kids for almost an hour and a half while you play games on your iPhone. It’s gaudy and scratchy enough to distract incurious minds, but there’s no way this picture can or should be appreciated by anyone over the age of 11.
Adam Sander voices Count Dracula. He’s built a hotel for monsters in order to protect his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) from the horrors of humans. The hotel gets a lot of classic monster movie icons as guests, including Frankenstein (Kevin James) and a werewolf (Steve Buscemi). One day, annoying backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg) somehow finds the place.
Dracula, for all his concerns of protecting his daughter from the world on her birthday, tries to conceal the presence of Jonathan while also hiding the human from the other guests. But of course Mavis discovers Jonathan and “zings” with him, setting herself up for an immeasurable lifetime of following the 21-year-old narcissistic douchebag as he explores life like only a Dave Matthews fan can.
There are the usual plot contrivances about hiding Jonathan and then finding out Jonathan isn’t like the other humans that burned Dracula’s life to death. And there’s the villain-of-sorts, Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), who tries to rat out Jonathan and sets up a number of allegedly funny situations. Other monsters, like the Invisible Man (David Spade) and the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), also come into play.
For all the potential around a hotel for classic film monsters, Hotel Transylvania has no clue how to use these characters. Sandler’s mugging as Dracula is galling from the opening frame, while the other characters straggle through their vocal paces like a melange of has-beens. Samberg and Gomez are the sort of fledgling couple you want to see fall in a well somewhere.
Then there are the songs. Oh my God, the songs. Whether it’s the distressingly dreadful “The Zing” or the presence of various pieces of dance music to persuade us how hip the young kids are, Hotel Transylvania has no clue how to melodically guide itself. The domineering orchestral score, rendered by Mark Mothersbaugh, repellently accompanies every mawkish moment.
As you may already be able to tell, I despised this movie. I’m so tired of the notion that animation is necessarily for (or must appeal almost solely to) kids. As a matter of appealing to kids, these pictures (mostly North American in origin) arrange a mash-up of please-let-it-be-cool dialogue, bright colours, songs from pop artists kids know, and irrational blurs of action-humour.
Hotel Transylvania is not symptomatic of each animated flick to come out of the studio chain, but it does embody all that’s wrong about focus-group filmmaking. Luckily, 2013 has given us pictures like Brave and the beautiful ParaNorman as apt candidates for the Oscars. Animated features should be creative, clever and at least moderately compelling – even if they are to be geared primarily at children. This rot is none of the above.