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Hotel Transylvania

TIFF 2012 Review

Sony Pictures Animation; 91 minutes

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Written by on September 13, 2012 

Directed by the man behind the animated television shows Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, Hotel Transylvania is Genndy Tartakovsky’s first feature film. It is one of the many spooky-themed animated offerings this year, along with ParaNorman and Tim Burton’s upcoming Frankenweenie. In this case, we have your favorite movie monsters, such as Dracula, featured in more of a light and comedic fashion.

Dracula (Adam Sandler), an overly protective widowed father, runs Hotel Transylvania, a building known to be completely secure from humans. He invites his monster friends, such as Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), The Mummy (Cee Lo Green) and Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), to throw his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) a birthday party. However, Dracula’s parties seem to repeat themselves every year as boring children-friendly celebrations, complete with games of bingo and charades.

As a 118-year-old vampire, Mavis experiences teen angst and yearns for freedom to see the world apart from her father’s secluded monster hotel. Dracula’s attempts to keep Mavis from humans seem to work, but Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a 21-year-old human traveler, somehow manages to enter the hotel. Jonathan is forced to stay in disguise, and his youth and worldliness livens the building. Dracula must learn to cope with the change in pace, his daughter’s entrance into adulthood, and his perspective on humans.

Tartakovsky‘s cartoon style is definitely visible in Hotel Transylvania. And though his 2D television work relied on the exaggerations of cartoon bodies, extreme timing, and camera movements for humor, it all might be a bit much for a 3D feature film. The potential of the animation is realized in the 2D segments, such as the flashbacks and the concept art at the end credits, which are beautifully rendered. Because of his narrative style, Hotel Transylvania seems to be a compilation of jokes and gags, rather than coming off as complete, singular story. Monster movie clichés and irony are the basis of several jokes, which are at many times tame and funny, like when Dracula suddenly becomes his feral self in times of rage. The audience may find the toilet humor, party pop music, and the dance-and-song sequence at the end to be slightly unnerving, rather than funny.

With the mix of voice actors, it seems that Sandler, now represented as a caring and responsible father, is passing the metaphorical comedian stick to Samberg here, as they so failed to do in this year’s That’s My Boy. The relationship between Dracula and Jonathan blossoms throughout the film, and it could have stopped there. The romantic side-note, or what the characters of the film called a ”zing,” between Mavis and Jonathan was not necessary. A genuine friendship, rather than an expected romance between them could have worked wonders, instead of what we’re given. The film is certainly cute with an edge, just as Tartakovsky‘s other works are, but while several of the scenes display success, they do not hold together as a whole to create an unabridged story. However, this director is able to inject a feel-good tone throughout, which makes this one worth watching for the laughs.

Hotel Transylvania is currently screening at TIFF and opens on September 28th.


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