Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Video review: "Hotel Transylvania"

Even in an extraordinarily weak year for animation, “Hotel Transylvania” did not receive an Academy Award nomination for best animated feature. And it’s no surprise: this derivative monster tale featuring Adam Sandler is a Frankenstein-like assemblage of bits ‘n’ pieces from other movies.

Actually, Frankenstein himself is here (voiced by Kevin James), along with Dracula (Sandler), the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), the Mummy (CeeLo Green) and a rogues’ gallery of every other creature feature from the past 80 years. The set-up is that they’ve all come to the hotel for their once-a-year celebratory bash, centered around the birthday of Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez).

Mavis is in her rebellious teenage phase -- it happens around age 118 for vampires -- and wants to venture forth and see the world. But Drac and the rest of the gruesome crew say it’s too dangerous, what with all the humans out there with their torches, pitchforks and paranoia. Then the red-blooded problem arrives on their doorstep in the form of Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a dim-witted backpacker dude. Dracula dresses him up as a Frankenstein cousin, and door-slamming farce ensues.

The animation is truly wonderful, a cartoony (non-scary) take on the nightmarish creatures of legend. I loved how the Wolfman wears a short-sleeved shirt and tie like a middle manager on holiday, and Frankenstein has a tendency to lose his stitching and fall to pieces.

But the story plays out with all the predictability of a werewolf needing a haircut on a full moon. Jonathan and Mavis start making gooey eyes at each other, dear dead dad isn’t very happy about it, and the scary humans turn out to be not so scary after all.

The animators did their job creating a visually vibrant world, but the script has all the life of a vampire with a stake through its heart.

Video extras are decent without being extravagant. The DVD comes with deleted scenes, feature-length commentary, music video and a short film, “Goodnight Mr. Foot.”

Upgrade to the Blu-ray version, and you get three making-of documentaries covering the voice cast and animation process.

Movie: 2 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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