With the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi. Written by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images. 91 minutes.
After “That’s My Boy,” one would think Adam Sandler would crawl under a rock and that Andy Samberg would refuse to have anything to do with him. Instead, they’re together again as part of the voice cast for the animated HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, which turns out to be a funny and delightful horror spoof. This may be the surprise of the season.
Dracula (voice of Sandler) has constructed a remote resort hotel as a safe haven for monsters, and they have gathered for the 118th birthday of his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). All the classic monsters are here, including Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz), the Blob, the Mummy, the Fly, and many others. The problem is that Mavis feels that at 118, she’s grown up and should be allowed to see the world while the overprotective Dracula wants to keep her far away from humans.
As the monsters gather, Jonathan (Samberg) shows up, a backpacking twenty-something who thinks that monsters are cool. Unfortunately, the monsters will freak out if they discover a human among them so Dracula transforms him into a cousin of Frankenstein until he can be hustled out. Then he and Mavis meet.
You don’t really need to know the rest of the plot. Suffice to say that it’s jokes about teens and over-protective parents filtered through the tropes of the classic monster movies. What makes this fun, besides a clever script, is that the voice cast is much better than you might expect. Sandler, who can be obnoxious in his own films, turns out to be quite funny playing Dracula as a concerned father. Kevin James is amusing as Frankenstein’s monster and Steve Buscemi is unexpectedly hilarious as the Wolfman, dealing not only with his wife (Molly Shannon) but also a brood of wolf cubs.
The engine for the film is that the monsters are as scared of the humans as the humans are of the monsters, which is why Dracula has gone to such pains to create his resort hotel sanctuary. However, the world has changed since Drac has gone into seclusion, leading to some new twists late in the film.
This is a movie that should appeal to classic monster fans as well as to youngsters who may not know the classics but will appreciate the thread about a daughter trying to break free from a restrictive father.
Ultimately, “Hotel Transylvania” is a fun romp through classic movie monster characters set in an unusual situation. It wisely avoids mocking the monsters and instead takes their point of view, wondering what it would be like for them having to deal with the real world. This is delightfully silly fun.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.