Monday, February 11, 2013

Hotel Transylvania – review

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Comedic animations, like standard comedy films, can often boil down to a matter of personal taste. Take, for just a moment, Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters. If you look at the comments there is a brief discussion between myself and Alex (one of our regular TMtV visitors). Alex remembers the film with a fondness whilst I, unfortunately, was bored as I watched it. I did try it again, my opinion remained the same. We are both, however, right as the view of the film is one of personal perspective (as are all films) and in comedic animation these can vary wildly.

The reason I mention this is because perhaps it is something I could have done with remembering when this was out on the big screen. The critics seemed to savage it and I let the film pass on by (unusual with vampire films, even the rubbish ones) and didn’t visit the cinema to watch it. Now I wish I had done as I really did enjoy this when I finally watched the DVD.

It begins in 1895 and the first thing that struck me was just how Hammer the music was through this scene. A bat flies towards a building, becoming a vampire – Dracula (Adam Sandler) – behind the French windows, which open and he (and his shadow) glide towards the cot and… plays peek-a-boo with the baby inside. Dracula’s wife has been killed by an angry peasant mob and he has been left with the promise that he will protect their baby Mavis (Selena Gomez).

flying lessons
Whilst we watch Mavis grow, taking her first flying lessons and being told scary stories about humans, Dracula has a hotel built. The hotel is to be a refuge for monsters from humanity, a place of safety. It is hidden behind a haunted forest and a zombie littered “land of the undead”. The works foreman (James C.J. Williams) tells Dracula that they will be hidden – but not to set off fireworks or have bonfires.

fatherhood - the werewolf way
Cut forward to the present day and Mavis is to have her 118th birthday party at the hotel and monsters are arriving to celebrate it. These include Wayne (Steve Buscemi, Paris Je T’aime ) and Wanda (Molly Shannon, The Amazing Screw-On Head) the werewolves with their massive litter of pups – Buscemi was inspired casting as the parenthood-weary werewolf. Also present are Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his bride Eunice (Fran Drescher) [yes, they make the common mistake of naming the monster Frankenstein], Murray (CeeLo Green) the mummy and Griffin (David Spade) the invisible man. It is a real monster mash.

bat form
Mavis was promised by her father (who is portrayed through the film as somewhat of a control freak) that she could go out of the hotel grounds at her 118th birthday. She wants to go to paradise (she has a postcard from Hawaii that says paradise and it is where her parents met) but he suggests the human village close by would be a quicker trip, especially as everyone has come to celebrate her birthday. He follows her and sees her land in the village to be attacked by an angry peasant mob – but it is all a trick, the peasants are zombies (staff of the hotel) with human masks on and he has deliberately tricked her so that she won’t leave the safety of the hotel again.

High in the foothills a human backpacker, Jonathon (Andy Samberg), sees the zombies returning to the hotel and is able to follow them as they set themselves on fire. He gets to the hotel and is intercepted by Dracula – who disguises him as a Stein so that the other monsters don’t know that a human has breached the sanctuary of the hotel. However he is seen by Mavis and the cover story becomes that he is a party planner – from there on the film follows a slapstick routine with Mavis and Jonathon falling for each other, Dracula trying to hide Jonathon's identity, Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) the chef trying to find the human he knows to be there and Jonathon trying to liven the hotel up. When Dracula becomes angered/frustrated the old monster shows for a moment.

Wanda, Wayne and Dracula
There is no great involved storyline but there is enough going on to make it interesting and, unlike some franchises – Monster High for instance, there is a genuine appreciation (I felt) for the monster/horror genre. It is amusing all the way through and there were some genuine guffaw moments. There is the obligatory kicks at Twilight – a brief view of the film makes Dracula wonder how vampires are being portrayed – but it is a one off and doesn’t become boring as such.

attempting eye mojo
There isn’t a huge amount of lore; we have seen that they can turn into bats, as well as this we learn that vampires burn in the sun (slowly, however, leading to a burning bat and jet plane chase), have telekinetic powers and their eye mojo can be foiled by contact lenses. I guess, as well, that as two vampires had a baby we could class them as a separate species. The voice acting is spot on, the animation lush and yes – Dracula does rap, but it is at the end of the movie and, to be fair, wasn’t as bad as was made out in the reviews I had read. Is it for everyone? Of course not, it has been pitched primarily at kids but, for adults, it has a charm that fans of the monster mash genre of flicks may well get a kick out of - I certainly did. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

While I am still a HUGE fan of Mad, mad, mad monsters this one doesn't seem to be up my alley. The other film had a nostalgic charm with the hokey humor and old school animation style while this one seem to focus more on modern pop-culture jokes and features a CGI animation style that doesn't really appeal to me. Combined with the fact the lead role is voiced by a comedian I don't find comedic I wont be in any rush to see it soon. At least not until I'm done being a biased curmudgeon living in the past.

Well-written review as always though old chum.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

fair comment Alex, and thanks for the praise.

Re Sandler, I don't think it really showqed as being him, it could have been one of many persons putting on a faux-Hungarian accent.

As for being a biased curmudgeon - nothing wrong with that ;)

Unknown said...

Eye-catching animation and non-stop jokes make this animated monster movie a lot more fun than we expect. It's packed with gross-out gags that will keep kids laughing, plus clever character-based humour for the grown-ups. :D

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for the comment Daniel :)