Sometimes movies come along with so much of a marketing push that I get tired of them before I even see them. The trailers are shoved in my face so frequently that whatever merits the film may have are lost because I’m now annoyed at its mere existence.
This couldn’t be more true about the “Hotel Transylvania” films. It also didn’t help that Adam Sandler is the voice of Count Dracula and I tend to scrunch my nose at most things he does as of late. But upon finding it streaming on Hulu (and knowing they don’t make sequels unless the first one makes money), I thought I’d give it a watch. Turns out it’s a lot more heartfelt and touching than I’d have thought, but it also relies too much on Sandler’s brand of childish humor.
The film begins in 1895 with Count Dracula building a massive hotel deep in the spooky woods as a safe haven for monsters away from humans. He’s also building it so his infant daughter Mavis can be raised safely after the death of his wife, Martha.
Fast-forward to present day and it’s Mavis’s 118th birthday and Dracula can’t wait to celebrate with all his monster friends – Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buschemi) and his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), the Invisible Man (David Spade), and Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green). Mavis (Selena Gomez) doesn’t seem all that keen on having the usual party this year, expressing her interest to travel and visit far-off places, like the “Paradise” her parents once visited in the postcard she found in Dracula’s things.
He allows her to leave the castle to visit the village down the mountain, but really he’s built a fake village and staged with his zombie hotel staff to be humans who want to attack her with torches and pitchforks. When they accidentally light themselves on fire (they are bumbling zombies, afterall) Mavis flies away back to the castle, convinced she shouldn’t leave its safety. Dracula thinks his troubles are over until Jonathan (Andy Samberg), the first human ever to find the hotel, shows up with his massive backpack, camera phone, and chipper attitude. Dracula must then find a way to keep Jonathan a secret from his friends and hotel guests as well as keep Mavis and him apart as she’s finally found someone her age who’s ventured to parts unknown beyond the castle.
First off, I did enjoy this movie. It’s very cute and has a great message about letting your children leave the nest and trust that they make good choices. But mostly it warns not to be a helicopter parent, which would be very easy if you could transform into a bat, I’m sure. The animation is fun and all the performances are great. The two things that got stuck in my craw were the writing, and Sandler and Samberg’s casting. The script is good, but it relies a lot on silly one-liners, bathroom humor, and Sandler’s repertoire of silly voices and sound effects. Sandler’s Dracula is serviceable, but most of the time, he just sounds like “an Adam Sandler Character” from his old stand-up albums and films (The Excited Southern/The Water Boy, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore).
I will say a good running joke through the movie is everyone saying to him “Bleh-bleh-BLEH!” in a very Bela Lugosi sort of way and Dracula retorting, “I’ve never said that! Why does everyone think I say, ‘Bleh-bleh-BLEH” all the time?!” Also Samberg can really only play two characters: Andy Samberg and slightly dumber/younger/more naive Andy Samberg.
Thankfully, those two issues weren’t glaring enough to completely sully my impression of the film. It was fun and silly and I’m sure kids eat it up. I just hope for their parents’ sake, they get full after one viewing.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer living in NYC. He is known to say, “Bleh-bleh-BLEH!” and mean it.