Published on October 2nd, 2012 | by theunwiseman1
Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania
Coming in at number one on this weekend’s box office, Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania set records for September opening box office numbers, along with a few other impressive stats. In this review, I will give a relatively spoilers-free look at this delightful family film. Note: I saw this movie in standard 2D. I will not be commenting on anything related to the 3D production.
Hotel Transylvania is the theatrical directing debut for Genndy Tartakovsky of early Cartoon Network fame. Young adult viewers will perhaps remember Tartakovsky’s cartoon hits like Dexter’s Lab, The Powerpuff Girls, and Samurai Jack. His style appears a bit more polished in this film, although with the transition from cel animation to computer-generated imagery, one is bound to see a change. The characters in each scene act appropriately according to the action: the animation is smooth and flowing in serious moments, yet wild and energetic in comedic scenes. Character designs are fresh and vivid, and the impressive set design evokes an appropriate mood for each scene. Overall, I can say that what we see in Tartakovsky’s directing is the logical extension of the animation style he exhibited in his work at Cartoon Network. He has a good grasp on how design and animation can make or break a scene.
Dracula is a single father trying to protect his vampire daughter from the “dangerous humans” who mean to do them harm. The struggles of being a single father raising a daughter are an often-used theme throughout both literature and film. This movie brings nothing original to the table in that respect, except for its unique index in a certain list in TV tropes. However, the plot is cleanly executed and neither drawn out nor rushed. No major plot holes exist aside from the physics of a vampire burning in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. (I’m also puzzled as to how Mavis is able to watch the sunrise without also being in direct sunlight. If she can see the sun, that means its rays are hitting her, right?) Questionable physics aside, no holes in the movie were essential to plot development, and I make it my policy to not count that against the film. However, the movie ends with an obnoxiously poppy and cheesy musical number in which all of the primary and secondary characters reiterate the theme of the movie.
The humor is witty and fresh. Unlike several recent attempts from several studios (e.g., The Smurfs, Madagascar 3), the comedy is not central to pop-culture references or random, out-of-context jokes (“afro circus”, anyone?). Adam Sandler’s flavor of slapstick is both family-appropriate (with the exception, perhaps, of a single crotch-kicking scene) and entertaining. Many of the situations and jokes hinge on parody of common monster folklore, so no age group is left confused. But the humor does not dominate the plot, and instead complements it, making the movie all the more enjoyable.
The star-studded voice talent in Hotel Transylvania brings a certain flair to the movie’s characters. With celebrities like Adam Sandler, Cee Lo Green, and Steve Buscemi on the roster, a liveliness is expressed to match what you can already see in the animation. In addition, no one character steals the show; an excellent performance is made by many of the actors and actresses.
Hotel Transylvania does not feature a very diverse soundtrack. This is offset by a well-written and well-executed score by Mark Mothersbaugh (I can’t decide on a good reference for him, so here is the list of all the soundtracks/scores he’s done). Mothersbaugh’s score is exactly what a good film score should be: complementary. I can’t remember every last piece in the score because they didn’t all stand out so intensely that I wasn’t paying attention to the screen instead. The level of attention demanded by each piece is relative to the scene it outlines. At the height of action and humor, the score evokes memories of late Golden Age of Animation music.
I greatly enjoyed Hotel Transylvania. The directing and design, writing, acting, and music all work together to make a fresh mark in computer-generated animation (outside of Pixar, anyway). Genndy Tartakovsky has come back from a break in animation with a polished style. This movie also suggests a promising future for Adam Sandler as a producer.