Quality: ★★★ (out of four)
Stars: Voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Rating: PG for rude humor, action, scary images
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Theaters: Westroads, 20 Grand, Village Pointe, Aksarben, Twin Creek, Bluffs 17, Midtown, Oak View, Great Escape
The premise sounds promising. An overprotective Dracula dad builds a hotel for monsters in the backwoods of Transylvania, a safe refuge to keep the torch- and pitchfork-wielding humans away from his daughter and all his friends.
So what happens when a human boy (voice of Andy Samberg) stumbles into the hotel during the girl's 118th birthday party?
“Hotel Transylvania,” an animated comedy not up to the level of Disney or Pixar, does fine with creating an entertaining assortment of creatures.
The voice work, too, is excellent. Particularly surprising: Adam Sandler as a thickly accented Dracula, who tries to trick his daughter, Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez), so he won't have to keep his promise that when she turns 118, he'll let her venture into the outside world on her own.
The talent roster stretches much further: Kevin James as an anxious Frankenstein's monster, Fran Drescher as his grating wife, Steve Buscemi as a Wolfman overrun by his brood of pups, David Spade as the Invisible Man, CeeLo Green as the Mummy.
And there are inventive bits of business in the animation as well, such as using sassy shrunken heads as Do Not Disturb signs on the bedroom doors and turning famous classical composers into a trio of zombies.
I found myself drawing parallels to “Finding Nemo's” risk-averse dad, independence-minded son and its collection of amusingly strange sea creatures.
But this script is just not as strong at developing a story with a clear arc, or fleshing out the main characters beyond archetypes.
The result is a movie that will work fine for tykes but isn't nearly as entertaining for the adults who accompany them to the multiplex.
Oh, it's not bad. And there are flashes of creative inspiration. But it falls short of greatness.
One clear piece of evidence is the bathroom-humor bits, something Sandler seems to gravitate toward in all his movies. It gets easy laughs, but it's hardly what you'd call clever.
Parents may appreciate the familiar situation of the concerned parent trying to manage a sullen, defiant teenager yearning for the double draw of a bigger world of adventure and a cute member of the opposite sex.
Kids won't mind the hyper and nearly constant action that attempts to mask the script's weakness with an endless parade of visual gags.
“Hotel Transylvania” is what they used to call a B picture. Not the best, but a perfectly passable alternative to spend an afternoon or evening with the kids. Keep your expectations in check, and you're likely to leave the theater smiling.
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