Hotel Transylvania

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
  Hotel Transylvania
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Dracula (Adam Sandler) runs a posh resort in the wilds of the Carpathians and caters to a very specific clientele – monsters. When a human boy, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), stumbles upon the place while hiking in the mountains and meets Drac’s beautiful daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), hijinks ensue as the proprietor tries to protect, from the evil human, his daughter and his “Hotel Transylvania.”

OK. Adam Sandler voicing one of the most famous monsters in literary history, Count Dracula, seems rife for copious belly laughs with all its comedic possibilities. Add to this a cheapskate Frankenstein (Kevin James), his shrill bride, Eunice (Fran Drescher) and the rest of the Universal Studios monster inventory – The Werewolf, the Mummy and the Invisible Man - are all on board to let their hair down and part. Unfortunately, the humor never really happens and, instead, we get a rehash of “The Munsters,” with an assortment of lovable monsters and an unsuspecting human thrust into their midst.

The hotel of the title is designed by Drac to be a safe refuge for his precious Mavis. It also happens to be a going concern where monster families can come and vacation without having to worry about those pesky humans. (All monsters are brought up to never trust humans – just look at their past track record of storming castles, burning witches and staking vampires.) Enter Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a 21-year old free spirit hiking the mountains to find the spooky place the local townsfolk fear so badly. He finds his way to Drac’s hotel and meets Mavis and it is love at first sight, throwing the proverbial wrench into the count’s long-laid plans to protect his daughter.

First-time feature animation director Genndy Tartakovsky has a stable of five credited writers – Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel, Todd Durham, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman - so there are a lot of comedic ideas but they rarely bear fruit. “Hotel Transylvania” tries to be slapstick monster movie, a protective daddy flick and a story of young romance between human and vampire – very timely with “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries” and, I hate to say, the “Twilight” series. It tries to give equal weight to each story thread but should have had more focus. Leveling the playing field takes away any of the possible belly laugh moments and provides only titters. Also, again, the 3D is unnecessary and only costs the movie-goer more. I give it C-.

Enraged by his treatment at the hands of humans after marrying one, the widowed Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) is determined that his daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) always be safe.  And so, he builds a respite for his kind, a place where family friends like Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) and Wolfman Wayne (voice of Steve Buscemi) will gather to celebrate Mavis's 118th birthday, "Hotel Transylvania."

Sandler and Samberg are united for the second time in 2012, this time not as father and son but as father and potential son-in-law.  They were funnier the first time around.  This overprotective dad story by Todd Durham and Dan & Kevin Hageman (TV's 'Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu') (screenplay by Peter Baynham (2011's "Arthur," "Arthur Christmas") and Robert Smigel ('SNL')) is a Universal monster mashup draped over the bones of 'The Munsters,' albeit without the laughs.

The best thing about "Hotel Transylvania" are the vocal performances of Sandler (his Romanian disdain for the phrase 'blah, blah, blah' is a gem) and Buscemi.  Samberg ("That's My Boy!") is the not-too-bright backpacker Jonathan who shows up to get hostility instead of hospitality and to 'zing' with Drac's daughter, but the pair have no zing at all and are awfully boring characters.  The filmmakers have a problem with female characters in general - turning Frankenstein's bride into Jewish caricature Eunice (voice of Fran Drescher) is misguided at best and multiple-dad Wayne is saddled with Wanda (voice of Molly Shannon), as bland as Little Red Riding hood's real grannie.

There are a couple of good jokes involving Wayne and The Invisible Man and some decent visual gags - including a literal one from The Fly running an aqua aerobics class - but on the whole this is one unfunny comedy.  For a film that takes shots at "Twilight," no one's bothered to solve the mystery as to how vampires can procreate, either.

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