The good news is that Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated Adam Sandler picture, Hotel Transylvania, is better than most Adam Sandler pictures. The bad news is that it still isn’t very good. It is, however, pleasant to look at and generally painless. The real problem is that it has maybe 45 minutes worth of story and about twice that much screen time. That’s not a good ratio. (The fact that it’s a better ratio than most Sandler vehicles is only useful on a sliding scale of mediocrity.) I should also note that the movie did seem to go down well with the children in the audience, so it apparently cuts the mustard for the prepubescent set. This information may be useful to parents and the younger readers of this column (assuming they exist). Otherwise, well, you likely weren’t itching to see this anyway.
The movie is all about Mavis (Mavis?) Dracula (Selena Gomez) coming of age (age being 118) and horrifying daddy Dracula (Adam Sandler doing an impression of somebody doing a Bela Lugosi impression) by wanting to go out and see the world. He goes to absurd lengths to keep her from doing this — going so far as creating a fake town with zombies dressed up as standard pitchfork-and-torch-brandishing villagers. His idea is that she should stay safely ensconced at his exclusive hotel for monsters where she’s already spent most of her life. What he hasn’t reckoned on is the accidental arrival of a moronic young human backpacker (Andy Samberg) who’s apt to blow the carefully crafted image of human beings as evil monster killers. And that’s about it.
Most of the film involves one of two things — either random monster jokes, or gags involving Dracula passing off our young backpacker as a poor relative of Frankenstein’s (Kevin James) right arm (or some body part). (Even though nearly the first thing my father taught me about “monster movies” was that the Frankenstein Monster was not Frankenstein, I’m willing to let that gaffe pass in a movie aimed at consumers of Franken Berry cereal.) It’s pretty thin stuff. Mostly what we get are gags about the Wolfman’s (Steve Buscemi) unruly and unhousebroken children, jive-talking shrunken heads and bad monster puns. (My personal favorite was the visual pun of a footstool made out of toads.) The drama, of course, consists of whether or not Dracula can learn to let go of his little girl and accept the fact that humans are no longer torch-wielding bozos (I’m not sold on that second part myself). No prizes will be awarded for guessing the outcome.
What really can be said beyond this? It’s not good enough to actually like, nor is it bad enough to get worked up about. It looks nice and it seems to have no ill intent. It might even turn a few kids on to the real movies it attempts to parody, which would be a good thing. But if you’re over the age of 8 or 9, it’s apt to be more than a little on the dull and too familiar side. Rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images.