Film & TV

Review – Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania sees the legendary character Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) make a hotel retreat purely for monsters, away from humans. Dracula holds a party for Mavis’ (his daughter, voiced by Selena Gomez) 118th birthday, attracting the likes of Frankenstein, the Werewolf, Big Foot, Hydra, mummies, skeletons, witches, zombies and just about every other mythical, Halloween-related monster you can think of. He is stumped, however, when a human mysteriously manages to enter the hotel, causing the Count much stress and panic. Cue a speedy monster-makeover for Johnny (Andy Samberg), throw in a love story, an embittered father and you have a bizarre but nonetheless enjoyable animated comedy.

Considering that I don’t spend much of my time watching children’s movies, Hotel Transylvania was a fantastic little gem of entertainment. In keeping with the current craze of gathering every character from a certain genre into one movie (Avengers Assemble, Rise of the Guardians to name a few), Transylvania combines numerous legendary figures from horror history and it was a great dynamic to see on screen: Dracula acting the host to his various guests, hiring witches who use magic to clean the hotel. This dynamic lends itself to become a fun-filled experience littered with jokes and gags. The animation was extremely detailed, with a well-executed use of the squash-and-stretch style of 3D animation effects.

The plot is not especially original, in the spirit of a simple children’s animation. But then, what children’s film is truly original? (Other than Toy Story, very few children’s animations have gained any significant praise.) Some might say that Transylvania is a watered-down version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas; despite being about scary monsters, the animation of the creatures is fairly inoffensive. Nevertheless, Transylvania never pretends to be some Oscar-winning piece of brilliant cinema. Overlooking the simple plot, the script itself is a total success, with very witty jokes and copious amounts of puns (watch out for the toadstool and the wolf whistle). Playing with conventional stereotypes made it into a piece of riotous comedy excellence.

What I loved is that these monsters have been portrayed in a new light in spite of having already been portrayed innumerable times before. The writers have taken a lot of effort to reinvent the traits of these mythical characters, and this is achieved with the help of the top-notch actors themselves. Samberg brings Johnny-stein to life – the young, worldly-travelled human who brings fun to the hotel in the form of water-sports, scooters and modern pop music. His character is matched by Gomez’ charming little innocent voice, and using actors who can sing is always useful come obligatory musical interludes. And then we have Adam Sandler putting on an unusual voice for the part of Dracula, but it works; his voice carries the part well (perhaps he should make a permanent move here from live-action!). In short, Hotel Transylvania is ridiculous, hilarious and 100% entertaining.

Hotel Transylvania is clearly made by adults wanting to re-create a bizarre, idealistic childhood, and they succeed – it’s light-hearted, with more comedy for adults than children themselves. It may not be groundbreaking cinema, but it is infectiously fun throughout: you’ll certainly leave the cinema smiling, even if it’s because you can’t quite believe what you’ve just witnessed.

Sangeeta Jheinga

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Film & TVFilm Reviews
4 Comments on this post.
  • Herb
    14 October 2012 at 18:44
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    I’m sorry, but LOADS of children’s films have gained ‘significant praise’ and many many more have been ‘significantly original.’ You really should take care when making such broad, baseless claims.

    • Josh Franks
      14 October 2012 at 20:35
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      @Herb – I think it entirely depends on how you define the term ‘children’s films’. Many of the successful ones out there have more than one level of humour and storytelling that appeal to adults and children alike. I can’t see why anyone of our age or older would find merit in watching something like Barbie and the Nutcracker, however.

  • Herb
    19 October 2012 at 18:18
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    It’s that kind of attitude that makes me really sad though.
    ‘If there’s a good children’s film – aka most of Pixar or Ghibli’s work – then it can’t really be seen as a children’s film.’ The fact that people see children’s films as entirely consisting of squeaky CGI anthropomorphic headaches a la ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ or poorly produced cash-ins like ‘Barbie’ is more evidence of a genuinely depressing trend. Properly good children’s films deserve more credit and not to be tarred as lacking creativity or critical reception as this review makes out.

  • Sangeeta
    21 October 2012 at 20:07
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    Yes, but Herb, if a movie isn’t just aimed at children – like Studio Ghibli, the classic Disney movies, Tim Burton animations – then you can’t class it as a children’s film because its audience is much wider than that. ‘Animated movies’ covers a very different genre of movies to ‘children’s movies’. You clearly class ‘children’s films’ very differently from me, but that’s more a matter of opinion than something to argue over.

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