A dad fears for the safety of his teen daughter in the wide world — even if that dad is Dracula and that daughter is 118 — in Hotel Transylvania, a light but entertaining animated movie.
Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) fears what the torch-wielding humans would do to his adorable vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) so he builds Hotel Transylvania, a resort where monsters can come and relax safely hidden from angry villages. Mavis spends a happy childhood there but by her 118th birthday she is yearning for a taste of the world. Dracula tries to distract her from this by bringing the world — or, at least, the monster world — to her. Guests for her birthday party include Frankenstein (Kevin James), bride of Frankenstein Eunice (Fran Drescher), werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and his litter of pups, Wayne’s wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), Murray (CeeLo Green) the mummy and Griffin (David Spade) the invisible man. They join the hotel’s staff of witches, zombies and chef Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz).
But by far the most terrifying creature to enter the hotel is Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a 20-something backpacking through Europe. He is, gasp, a human. A backpacking, jam-band-loving goofus, Jonathan could spell the end of the hotel if guests learn he slipped by all the haunted-this and spooky-that set up to keep humans out. He could also mess up an elaborate plan of Dracula’s to convince Mavis that all humans are evil and she’s better off at home.
You’ve got all the basics of modern animation: the kid who wants to break free, a parent who is afraid, a tale of woe about the fate of the missing parent, a romance that seems like a bad idea. Hotel Transylvania tells this standard story rather standardly — I’ll bet you could guess right now who learns and grows and how. But the monster conceit does bring something entertaining to the set-up. It’s a world that isn’t so much the creepy Tim Burton take on monsters, it more gets to the goofy aspect of them: the puppy-like spazziness of the werewolf cubs, Mavis’ first time flying as a bat, the Frankensteins mailing themselves in pieces. These characters have a Loony Tunes/Hanna-Barbera silliness to them, which is good. That Saturday-morning-cartoons lightness is the perfect level for a mid-level outing like this.
Hotel Transylvania feels a bit on the long side (it may be only 91 minutes, but at least 20 of those are unnecessary). Less plot and character development and more monster silliness might have been the way to go. Still, for kids old enough to enjoy some mild scares, Hotel Transylvania is a tasty-enough autumnal treat. B-
Rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky with a screenplay by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel and story by Todd Durham and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman, Hotel Transylvania is an hour and 31 minutes and distributed by Sony Pictures Animation.