Hotel Transylvania plays as the distinct underdog in the horror-themed trilogy of animated films following ParaNorman and Frankenweenie in recent weeks. Sony Pictures Animation, relative new kids on the block can’t boast the pedigree of Laika or Tim Burton but their small back catalogue does include the brilliant Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Can this effort, which is playing squarely at the commercial audience, emulate any of that film’s inspired insanity?
Dracula (Adam Sandler) isn’t such a bad bloke these days. Instead of spending his time biting necks he runs a lavish hotel for various ghouls and monsters who treat the place as a haven from the humans that have victimised them throughout the ages. Among the residents is his daughter Mavis, about to celebrate her 118th birthday and desperate to see the world, something her father is intent on preventing. When a backpacking dude marches in the front door in search of a room, old Drac disguises him as a monster but soon despairs when he and Mavis hit it off.
There’s clear potential here and on some scores the makers go some way to meeting it. No opportunity to stuff in more and more bonkers monsters is missed and there are some funny characters in there, notably Steve Buscemi’s wolfman, a harassed father, but the script does commit the cardinal sin of referring to Frankenstein’s monster as Frankenstein. That old mistake was annoying when I was in Primary School.
The plot feels like it was made up in an afternoon as the action moves from scene to scene with little shape or purpose, playing out as an endless stream of jokes with little to no regard for satisfying storytelling or any kind of emotional or artistic depth. It boils down to the same overprotective father routine that was so redundant in Ice Age 4 and the one time the film does try to tug at the heart-strings it falls flat. Moreover the central romance suffers from a total lack of chemistry between the characters involved.
On the plus side the CG animation, created by a talented team, pops with energy and the gag rate is off the chart. Quantity doesn’t always equate to quality as we know and that rings true here, a number of jokes just get lost but just enough find their mark to ensure the experience isn’t a total loss.
I think a lot of adults underestimate kids’ abilities to grasp and appreciate complex material but I also believe that most kids don’t always know the difference between the average and the inspired (I used to love the Super Mario Bros. movie for crying out loud) and the auditorium was filled with laughter from sprogs throughout the showing. The madcap nature of this comedy might be very unrefined and aimless but it still conjures up smiles from the target audience and no-one can ask for more than that.
Despite some lively animation and a smattering of laughs Sony’s Hallowe’en-themed jape doesn’t quite find its mark. One for kids and animation fans only.