‘Hotel Transylvania’ is less than it should have been

By Christopher K. Conner

In the new movie “Hotel Transylvania,” to raise his infant daughter in a safe environment, Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) builds a resort for monsters where they will be safe from humans.  

Every year, on his daughter’s birthday, Dracula invites all of his monster friends for a party.  From Frankenstein’s monster and bigfoot to the werewolf and his family, monsters from all over the world show up to celebrate and enjoy a human-free weekend at Hotel Transylvania.

The coming festivities do little to excite Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez). Now a 118-year-old teenager, Mavis wants to leave the only home she’s ever known to see what the outside world is like. Expecting that Dracula will go back on his promise to allow her to explore the world, she is surprised to find that her father is willing to let her leave and directs her to a nearby town.

What Mavis doesn’t know is that her father has dressed up his zombie henchmen as humans to illustrate the violent intolerance humans represent and drive her back to the hotel.  The plan works and she returns without venturing any further into the human world, but Dracula doesn’t realize that a human adventurer has followed his hapless zombie horde into the tunnel that conceals the entrance to his castle. 

Jonathan believes he’s stumbled on the resort during a costume party. Dracula initially tries to conceal the human to avoid scaring off his guests, but in his desire to keep the notion that his hotel is human free, has to come up with a different plan when his guests notice Jonathan. Dressing him in costume, Jonathan poses as Frankenstein’s cousin. All the while Dracula tries to find ways of keeping Jonathan’s nature a secret and get him out of the hotel without being questioned.

Jonathan and Mavis are immediately drawn to each other and strike up a friendship that complicates Dracula’s plans even more. Dracula explains that he decided to bring in a party planner closer to Mavis’ age to make sure her 118th birthday is extra special, making it even harder to extract Jonathan from the festivities. Along the way, Jonathan’s craving for adventure and adrenaline makes him the star of the party, much to Dracula’s dismay.

After a bizarre chase on flying dining tables, Dracula finally explains his reasons for fearing humans to the man. Understanding at last, he resolves to leave the hotel and never return for the monsters’ sake. Before he can leave, though, Quasimodo discovers that he really is a human and captures him. Once one of the monsters knows the truth, it is only a matter of time before the others discover it.

“Hotel Transylvania” takes a lot of liberties with the appearances and characteristics of the monsters.  They are recognizable, but quite different than their standard look. Perhaps they wanted to remove any shred of latent fear that may be attached to the characters. From the beginning, the caricaturish appearance and mundane lives of the monsters want the audience to identify with the persecution and fear of humanity that has driven the monsters to hide and retreat to Dracula’s hotel as the only place they can be themselves.

As a whole, the film feels like an idea that is better in concept than execution. There are many funny parts for both children and parents, sure, but the package as a whole feels as vacant as a ten-minute Saturday morning cartoon created just to push cereal and Christmas toys. “Hotel Transylvania” had enough amusing sight gags to keep the attention of kids and parents alike despite its shallow and predictable plot.

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