Some monstrously clever character design and animation as flexible as bubble gum cannot vivify a corpse-cold script in the pre-Halloween kids movie Hotel Transylvania. After six years in development, this comedy starring and produced by Adam Sandler feels as slapped together one of the comedian’s live-action buddy movies.
In this twisted monster tale, Sandler voices the character of Dracula, a widowed single parent who runs a rambling castle/hotel where only fellow monsters are invited to check in. When the Count’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), turns 118, he holds a monsters ball with all his friends. These include a gallery of bulbous and squishy creatures, including Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Invisible Man (David Spade as a pair of tortoiseshell glasses hovering in midair), the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) and far too many others to care about.
The familiar premise sees Dracula as an overprotective parent and Mavis as the newly grown daughter anxious to see the world. Instead, the world comes to them in the form of an American hiker dude, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), who wanders into their hotel during the festivities.
Instead of simply exsanguinating the interloper, the gentle Dracula disguises Jonathan as another monster among the guests.
At the same time, he struggles, without success, to keep Jonathan and Mavis apart.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky, celebrated for his television animation (The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack), has taken an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach right from the start: too many characters, a shotgun volley of one-liners and sight gags that barely benefit from the 3-D format.
Kids may be tolerant of Sandler’s wavering silly Dracula accent, the repeated flatulence jokes and innumerable chase scenes through the hotel’s corridors, but long before the movie presents us with Sandler’s impression of a rapping vampire, adults may be looking for any opportunity to check out early.