Starring: Voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Cee-Lo Green
Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky
Hotel Transylvania might be Adam Sandler’s best picture since his collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson on Punch-Drunk Love. And why not, as since that 2002 romantic comedy, Sandler’s essentially played a cartoon character in each of his subsequent films. He doesn’t do anything new with Dracula, and you can still hear a hint of Opera Man in his Dracula voice, but he doesn’t have to. It probably didn’t hurt that instead of a hired goon director, animation wizard Genndy Tartakovsky was behind the madness.
That’s a good thing too, especially when Tartakovsky still shows he’s one of the best creative minds working in animation. True, this tends to be more cookie cutter than some of his previous ventures, most of the jokes and storytelling aren’t. Occasionally some toilet humor makes its way in, but this is much more sophisticated than your typical run-of-the-mill animation picture. In addition, it’s great to see Tartavoksy’s drawings translate very well into computer animation.
Most of the Sandler regulars appear, with Andy Samberg voicing the happy-go-lucky Jonathan. Samberg gives Jonathan just enough life to be fun, occasionally teetering to annoying. He’s not a baffoon, and you’d like to see him and Selena Gomez’s Mavis end up together. Gomez herself does a fine job as the teenager who just wants to explore. Praise must be given to Gomez, as it’s tough to tell that it is her until her name shows up in the credits. The loud Kevin James shows up as Frankenstein with his prints are all over it, unlike Sandler’s are on Dracula. Yet for this incarnation of the giant lug, there’s no voice more perfect. The personal favorite, as brief as it was, is Steve Buscemi’s werewolf. No voice has ever seemed so right in a comedic take on all these monsters.
The script writers Robert Smigel and Peter Baynham have come up gets the job done, and may seem like familiar territory here. They’re able to keep some ideas fresh, and the way they handle the themes of love loss and an overproctective father are well done. It’s enjoyable to see the monsters and creatures of yesteryear not in a scary way, but in a fun, exciting, likable way. They don’t always hit their mark, and a subplot with a hunchback feels tacked on. The movie as a whole overcomes this, and thankfully Smigel and Baynham has the good common sense to keep the pop culture jokes to a minimum.
In a year when Pixar was more expirmental than focusing on good stories, and the other animation houses seemed to phone it in, it’s nice to seeHotel Transylvaniaswoop in and be a moral yet fun take on monsters while picking up the slack of the of the other guys. It may not be the best animated film of the year, but it does make for a fine children’s film and should provide some light-heartedness this Halloween. Now let’s just hope this is a rejuvination of sorts for Adam Sandler.