By: Addison Wylie
It’s unfortunate to report that Hotel Transylvania is a disappointment. Even young children will pick up on how often this neat set-up is treated as a one-note joke.
Hotel Transylvania has everything a kid could want from a timely Halloween release including oodles of monsters. Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James), the Invisible Man (voiced by David Spade), a talking werewolf (voiced by Steve Buscemi), and a mummy (voiced by CeeLo Green) all make appearances at Dracula’s humble abode. Adam Sandler lends his voice as the blood-sucking Vampire.
The movie’s one-and-only trick is to constantly remind audiences that the characters in the movie are scary creatures with a soft side humans don’t usually see. However, it’s a cast of monsters that hide in the shadows from humans for fear that the mysterious people will hunt and kill them.
This constant reminding works – for the first ten minutes or so. Seeing all these monsters we’ve grown up to love, voiced well – for the most part – by familiar actors gives us an “everything’s going to be fine” feeling.
However, those characters as well as Hotel Transylvania’s story of trying to hide a human in the hotel never feels like it’s being put to great use.
To give credit where credit is due, Hotel Transylvania has well timed and well executed sight gags. They never make you laugh out loud in hysterics but they will make the odd snicker fall out of your mouth.
The problem with the humor is that the cast, the screenwriters Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, and an inexperienced feature film director (Genndy Tartakovsky) are asking themselves the wrong questions when trying to make their young target audience laugh.
The team is supposed to be thinking of what makes little kids laugh. Instead of thinking like their audience or even taking a stroll through memory lane to figure out what they liked at a young age, they ask themselves, “if my adult self was transformed into a child in this new-fangled YouTube generation, what would I find funny?”
We get a lot of lousy and apparent snappy dialogue with sarcastic remarks peppered in for extra “luck”. Actually, a lot of the jokes in the animated film are spoken and, most likely, will soar over young heads.
Is a kid in pre-school going to understand the exchanges between a frustrated Dracula and the hidden human, Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg in a gratingly obnoxious surfer-boy way)? They may just be laughing at the aggravated faces Dracula makes.
What about the quick and random joke about the Invisible Man getting pantsed after getting out of a pool? Sure, adults will get a cheap laugh and a reminder of how a similar joke was told better in a favourable Seinfeld shrinkage episode, but what about those pesky kids?
A terrific example of this disconnect is the embarrassing finale where the characters sing, rap, and dance. It’s a gag that’s all too familiar in recent animated movies but this time, the joke mocks the auto-tune fad.
The auto-tune has been applied so heavily and the actors rap so fast – throwing each alleged punch line away. It’s a botched finale that is only there to remind us that the voices behind the characters must’ve had fun goofing around. It’s also a reminder of why musicians Selena Gomez and CeeLo Green are involved in an animated film such as this.
As a grown-up in the audience, I desperately wanted to see Tartakovsky’s animated film succeed and resonate with me this Halloween. Unfortunately, it grows tedious while the creativity bar doesn’t budge for its entirety.
But, should Hotel Transylvania have gotten another fate? I happen to think the film would’ve made a stimulating pop-up book or one of those larger-than-life hardcovers with glossy animated pictures.
It has a visual style to it that the Hoodwinked films have been trying to nail down. It’s a type of animation that’s supposed to capture storybook illustrations but ends up looking cheap; at least in the Hoodwinked sense.
Hotel Transylvania, on the other hand, pulls off the animation. It’s not particularly something we’re accustomed to – or even like – but we get what it’s doing.
I also lean towards a literary conclusion with Hotel Transylvania because the film’s sight gags are some of the only jokes that work. Tartakovsky could’ve had a hit on his hands that could’ve sold out bookstores and online shopping sites around this time of year.
As Frankenstein would say:
“Book, good. Animated movie voiced by Happy Madison cohorts, bad. Baaaaaad.”