Four stars. Rating: PG, for mild rude humor and some scary images
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.28.12
Funniest sight-gag I’ve seen in years: The Invisible Man attempting to convey a clue during a spirited round of charades.
Hotel Transylvania is generously laden with similar knee-slappers, many piling one atop the next in the rat-a-tat-tat manner of a classic Road Runner cartoon. But this is no seven-minute short; director Genndy Tartakovsky and editor Catherine Apple successfully maintain an exhilarating pace without sacrificing the character elements necessary to hold our interest.
It’s an impressive feat, no less so when considering the involvement of five credited writers: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel, Todd Durham, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman. That many cooks generally spoil the magic potion, but in this case everybody’s sensibilities mesh nicely. The result is a light-hearted spoof of familiar movie monster traditions, blended with wry takes on young love and an unusually extreme generation gap.
Long, long ago, in a haunted forest far, far away, Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) constructed a lavish “five-stake resort” that he dubbed Hotel Transylvania: a posh refuge for monsters and their families to vacation, far from curious — and potentially dangerous — eyes. As has become typical of our 21st century re-evaluations of fantasy creatures, these poor monsters are the world’s maligned and misunderstood, hunted and killed by the humans who fear and hate them.
Bearing that last thought in mind, Dracula’s massive sanctuary also has been designed as a place where his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), can grow up safely. Dracula has particular reason for this parental concern; a century and change ago, his beloved wife — Mavis’ mother — was killed by just such a human mob.
But Mavis is celebrating her 118th birthday, and — just like the tower-bound Rapunzel, in 2010’s Tangled — she yearns to explore and experience the outside world. Until now, Dracula has managed to delay her desire, in part through the distraction of ever more elaborate birthday parties.
This one is destined to be no exception, with a guest list that includes Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his brassy wife, Eunice (Fran Drescher); Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and Wanda (Molly Shannon), a couple of loving werewolves who have produced litter after litter of pups; Griffin, the Invisible Man (David Spade); Murray (CeeLo Green), a boisterous, jive-talking mummy; and Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), the hotel’s temperamental head chef, never seen without his loyal rat assistant, Esmeralda.