Growing up, I was always a huge fan of cartoons. Among my favorites were “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack” and, dare I say it, “The Powerpuff Girls”. There was always something about the writing that I enjoyed, and something about the animation style that 7-year-old me found aesthetically pleasing.
I always realized that the three shows had very similar styles, however, it was not until I was older that I realized why. All three of them were written and drawn by Russian animator Genndy Tartakovsky. Now, 10 years later, I was ecstatic to learn about Tartakovsky’s directorial debut “Hotel Transylvania.”
“Hotel Transylvania” is, as the film’s tagline explains, “where monsters go to get away from it all.” After the unfortunate death of his wife, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) builds a monsters-only hotel in order to protect his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). When a human (Andy Samberg) finds the castle in the midst of Mavis’ 118th birthday party, and hits it off with the Count’s daughter, it is up to Dracula to find it in his heart to accept Johnny for who, or should I say what, he truly is.
Rounding out the main cast of supporting actors are Kevin James as Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi as Wayne the awerewolf, CeeLo Green as Murray the Mummy, and David Spade as Griffin the invisible man. All three actors along with Sandler and even Gomez were perfectly cast. Their voices are all distinctive enough to be recognized, but they are all changed slightly so it doesn’t sound like they’re playing themselves. Fran Drescher and Molly Shannon also have supporting roles as Murray and Wayne’s wives, respectively. Drescher steals almost every scene she is in and delivers some of the film’s funniest lines.
Stylistically, the film is sure to keep both kids and adults entertained. While kids are sure to enjoy the bright colors and 3D, adults will pick up on smaller details like the plethora of background monsters, several of whom are references to monster mythology (Mr. Hydraberg the Hydra being one of these characters).
One of the aspects that most surprised me was how screenwriters Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel manage to make their takes on the characters so refreshing. Rather than make Frankenstein and Dracula what audiences are used to, the co-writers turn them into something totally new and likeable.
One qualm I found in many reviews of the film is that there is tons of material here for children to enjoy, but not much for the parents. I wholeheartedly disagree. While there is more than enough humor and inviting characters for kids to invest in, adults will surely resonate with the underlying themes of how not to be an overbearing parent, when to let your kid explore the world, and accepting everyone for who they are.
With a strong opening weekend, the film made $42.5 million, it will be interesting to see how it does in comparison to Tim Burton’s animated flick “Frankenweenie.”
3 stars out of 5 to what is easily, and in turn, a little bit sadly, Sandler’s best film in recent memory.