Hotel Transylvania

Monster mush — Despite great visuals and dream characters, this campy creature feature lacks originality

Adam Sandler is the voice of Dracula; Andy Samberg does party-crasher Jonathon.
Adam Sandler is the voice of Dracula; Andy Samberg does party-crasher Jonathon.

Hotel Transylvania| C+

You think your teenager is sulky? Try raising a vampire child whose puberty lasts several decades. That's the dilemma faced by Adam Sandler's overprotective, hovering daddy Dracula in Hotel Transylvania, a breezy, cheesy, fun but not wholly original animated romp. Essentially a spiffed-up modern tribute to the creaky old '60s Rankin-Bass puppet animation romp "Mad Monster Party," Transylvania makes its bones by presenting cutesy takes on all the famous monsters of film land, cramming them all under one roof, and hoping something funny happens. Just one of three spooky themed cartoon flicks this season (ParaNorman and Frankenweenie) designed to feed the ever-expanding beast that is the Halloween-industrial complex, this is the most mainstream, least creepy offering. There are monsters more threatening than these on cereal boxes.

Drac lives a somewhat circumscribed afterlife, locked up tight in his drafty hidden castle enclave, though he's rarely lonely, as the mansion also serves as a resort getaway where all manner of groovy ghoulies can come and destress from the night-to-night grind of hiding in the shadows. Turns out that all these fearsome creatures are terrified of humans, with reason, since in the bad old days they were constantly running from torch-wielding villagers. 

Having lost his bride to such an attack long ago, our Vampy papa is particularly paranoid that his spunky teen daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) will wander off to the scary outside world, even though she's been cooped up with the cobwebs for more than a century. 

Papa Vamp's best-laid plans go haywire, when Jonathon, a fun-loving human backpacker voiced by Andy Samberg, stumbles into Mavis' huge birthday bash. This regular dude is actually not so bad, but Dracula's attempt to disguise him as Frankenstein's cousin (on his right arm's side), backfires when Mavis develops a crush on the party crasher. 

Sandler, who has grown infamously lazy on camera, proves to be a pretty decent voice-over talent, even though he's basically doing a blend of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Sesame Street's count. 

Lots of Adam's celebrity pals also camp it up, including Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon and Jon Lovitz as a snobby Quasimodo. 

Cartoon Network's visionary talent Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Labratory, Samurai Jack) directed, and his brilliant artistic sensibility is apparent in the gorgeous, fluid character designs. There are some great sight gags and witty wordplay, but it's a shame that the script too often grows frantic and desperate for laughs. Gags about mummy flatulence can only take you so far.  

There's also the obligatory hip-hop, mock rap number finale, the sort of lameness which I could've spent an undead eternity avoiding.

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