Film Review: Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Directors: Jennifer Kluska, Derek Drymon
Sony Pictures Animation
Streaming on Amazon Prime 01.14
Apart from its existence in general, the most bizarre thing about the Hotel Transylvania franchise is that while it may not be the smartest or best animated property out there, this kiddie cartoon ranks among the most mainstream, sophisticated commercial endeavors of its star, Adam Sandler, and his intrepid band of hangers-on—I do not mean that as a compliment. As if all of this wasn’t weird enough in its own right, the wholly unnecessary fourth installment, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, may actually be the most entertaining.
In Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, Dracula (this time voided by Brian Hull, a YouTube impressionist who sound exactly like Sandler) is getting ready to retire and hand over the keys to his beloved hotel to his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) … but that also means leaving it to her husband, Drac’s goofy and decidedly human son-in-law, Johnny (Andy Samberg). The venerable vampire just can’t go through with it, and he makes up a story about magical rules not allowing a human to run the hotel. But when Johnny goes to Dr Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) for help, the old mad scientist uses his mysterious “Monsterification Ray” to turn Johnny into a monster. As if this weren’t enough, the device goes haywire and Drac and his pack of monster buddie are all turned into humans. Drac and Johnny are forced to team up for a perilous journey into the unknown jungles in order to find a cure before it is too late.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Hotel Transylvania: Transformania a particularly good film, it’s a more enjoyable than the tedious third entry in the series, primarily because this entry relies more on action-packed adventure than on painfully corny shtick and rude humor. There’s still a bit too much of the latter, particularly recurring jokes involving the fact that the Invisible Man (David Spade) is a nudist, and very little of the supporting cast is putting much life into their performances.
But Drac and Johnny are the main focus of the film, and as frightening as it is to think that there’s anything that Adam Sandler doesn’t deem to be worthy of his time as long as he’s getting paid, he’s not missed. Hull does a solid enough job that I had no idea that it wasn’t Sandler until the movie was over, and the absence of the superstar allows Samberg to take more of the spotlight—he’s always been the best part of these films. Johnny as a giant, green dragon-like creature stomping through the jungle with Drac riding him is probably more entertaining than it should be, and it is likely to be even more so to kids. Gomez, Kathryn Hahn as Drac’s wife, Ericka, and Gaffigan all give it their best efforts, the animation is colorful and Hotel Transylvaina: Transformania moves along briskly enough, clocking in at 98 minutes—that’s a fairly painless experience, especially since you don’t have to pay to see this one in a theater.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania isn’t great family entertainment, but I found it to be a more enjoyable experience than I had expected. With expectations kept very low, it should please kids, even if the “grown up” Sandler fans feel disappointed that it doesn’t have as much of his signature, infantile brand of humor. –Patrick Gibbs