‘Hotel Transylvania’ better left dead

Hollywood Soapbox logoThere has been a spat of animated films focusing on the horror genre, and, although introducing some mild scares to the younger audience is an interesting trend, the results are not always inspired. If Paranorman and Frankenweenie are the standard bearers of “kid-horror,” then Hotel Transylvania is the court jester. At times this silly tale about Dracula’s shangri-la for vacationing monsters can be quite funny, but everything is painfully hidden behind a need to dumb down the content. Paranorman elevated narrative, while Hotel Transylvania buries it beneath stupid one-liners and a formulaic plot.

In the film, Dracula (Adam Sandler) decides to throw a bash for his 118-year-old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez). All the usuals are there; from the Mummy to Frankenstein, Universal Studios’ crop of baddies are present and accounted for. The problem is when Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a non-monster, strolls into Dracula’s digs and gets himself entangled in a puppy-dog romance with Mavis. Uh-oh.

The animation throughout the film is in the same sphere as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Despicable Me. The Sony film takes no risks with its monster creations, and everything has a rather 1999 feel, as if the animators were experimenting with 3D for the first time. Every monster is playful and round; no harsh edges in this scary world.

The dialogue can be funny, and surely screenwriters Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel know how to filter in quality one-liners. I was particularly pleased by the songs in the film, no doubt influenced by Sandler’s penchant for hilarious, singer-songwriter tunes.

The main problem is that the individual elements don’t add up to much, and the emphasis is much more on broad humor. The central love relationship between Mavis and Jonathan is boring and cliche; even young audience members will see the resolution coming from a mile away. If I had a dime for every kids movie that featured a stern father who eventually comes around to the fact that his daughter is no longer a child, I’d be a millionaire. Ho-hum.

Worst of all, the film does not take advantage of its admittedly clever concept. Having these monsters under one roof for a crazy party sounds like a superb opportunity for laughs and tie-ins to previous horror films. However, the film has undergone a sanitization process of these monsters and their backstories (perhaps out of fear of copyright infringement). Very little mention is made of how each monster came into this world. Instead, everything is focused on Jonathan and Mavis and their budding relationship.

Hotel Transylvania can’t compete with Paranorman or Frankenweenie or too many other animated films nowadays. It would have been better as a home video rather than a major theatrical release.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Hotel Transylvania

  • 2012

  • Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

  • Written by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel

  • Featuring the voice talents of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher and Steve Buscemi, among many others

  • Running time: 90 minutes

  • Rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images

  • Rating: ★★☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

One thought on “‘Hotel Transylvania’ better left dead

  • May 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Well, if you could do better, show me. If everyone has the same mindset as you, the world be better left dead then, eh~? It’s not like they are even comparing them.

    What’s amazing though, is that Hotel Transylvania CAN compete with Paranorman and Frankenweenie. ParaNorman has a Box Office of $107 million while their budget is $60 million, Frankenweenie has $81 million with a budget of $39 million, but Hotel Transylvania beat them with a landslide. Hotel Transylvania has a Box Office of $358 million with a budget of $85 million. While this is not impressive, at least they got 4 times ,than their budget, earned.

    It is a matter of opinion, you will say, at the sight of the facts. But the opinion that Hotel Transylvania is good outweighs that it is bad, you must note. Yet, I am not persuading you to like it, if you view it as a bad plot it is bad to your point of view, but for me, not. So, it is a matter of opinion.


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