Hotel Transylvania is stupid, lame and, most of all, adorable. It accomplishes its objective of validating cartoon romance, and does so with pizzaz. And though intended for children, the eminently likable characters will put a smile on a person of any age.
At Quality 16 and Rave
Sony Pictures Animation
The animation easily hits the marks of cute and light. Selena Gomez (“Wizards of Waverly Place,” also of Bieber ruboff fame), the voice of Mavy, puts on an astonishingly good vocal performance for an actress out of the Disney Starlet Factory. Critics may enter the theater very ready to hate her character’s guts, but her voice has the shine to win them over. There is little in this movie that is not over-the-top, but if terribad cartoon love stories are your thing, you’ll appreciate its excess.
The entire plot is short enough to fit in the trailer: Dracula’s (Adam Sandler, “Just Go With It”) wife was killed long ago by a mob of xenophobic humans, so he built Hotel Transylvania as a sanctuary for his daughter and all monsterkind. Mavy, predictably, does not want to live in safety forever — she wants to interact with humans. Her dad does everything in his power to keep her away from civilization. These efforts explode in his face on Mavy’s 118th birthday, when a human named Jonathan crashes her party.
Johnny (Andy Samberg, “Celeste and Jesse Forever”) is a stereotyped character, there’s no getting around that. But he’s the best cliché frat boy ever fit into a cartoon chassis: Lovably dense, adventurous and warmhearted, he is exactly the kind of idiot that a smart girl with a helicopter family yearns for. He is an escape, but more than that, he doesn’t suffocate. He and Mavy immediately “zing,” which is Hotel Transylvania’s form for “fall in love at first sight.” Again: stupid, lame, adorable.
The discrete jokes are honestly bad, and the emotional transition of Dracula from paranoid to accepting is obvious and methodical. This movie is a bildungsroman for the father figure, not the daughter: Mavy’s father learns, kicking and screaming, that his daughter needs to live on her own terms, and that the world might be worthy of her presence in it. His role as Count Dracula is an afterthought to his role as a father.
The supporting cast, an array of comically animated monsters, is uniformly corny, and their purpose as a sort of Gaze, or Greek chorus, is overdone. But their self-referential charm provides a way to forgive them, and this movie, for being so facepalmingly dumb.
Without a readiness to engage, and participate in, what you know as idiocy, this movie would have held no appeal. Be this movie’s friend, and it will be your friend. Take someone you’re comfortable with and bond via mutual stupidity. Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Hotel Transylvania” has enough substance to be worth your time, if you let it be.