So, after the horror-show that was That’s My Boy the obvious question is whether Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg are even capable of making a movie that’s not terrible, or even one that’s not offensive to all but the lowest brows. Hotel Transylvania shows that while the answer may be yes, the result still isn’t very good.
Dracula (Sandler) has a daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) whose mother died when she was very young. He built a castle well-isolated from humans where he could keep her safe. Monsters, as it turns out, are actually afraid of humans doing all sorts of horrible things to them. So Dracula opened the castle as a hotel for monsters, where they can relax in safety, with zombie staff (Paul Brittain) and animated suits of armor (Brian George) on security.
And there are plenty of monsters, with a huge cast drawn in large part from other Saturday Night Live alumi: Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher); Wayne, the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), and his wife, Wanda (Molly Shannon); Murray, a mummy (Cee Lo Green); Griffin, the invisible man (David Spade); a talking, anthropomorphic fly (Chris Parnell). They even count Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) as a monster, for some reason.
Mavis, of course, wants to go out and see the world, but Dracula is an overprotective control freak and won’t let her until she turns 118, and maybe not even then. But as the monsters gather for her birthday, the secrecy of the castle is first breached by a dopey human backpacker named Jonny (Andy Samberg). Dracula disguises him to keep the hotel’s reputation intact, but before he can be swept out into the haunted woods he and Mavis fall in love at first sight, just as Dracula and his wife had.
Reinforcing the concept of a soulmate in the minds of impressionable children is a problem, but other than that it’s pretty tame, especially for these two. Sure, the humor starts and ends in the bathroom, but that’s what a large chunk of kids — and their parents — go for. On the other hand, can’t we do better?
On some level it feels unfair to ding the movie for being merely passable. After all, there are plenty of enjoyable “just okay” movies out there, and you probably won’t do any damage to children by letting them see this one. Am I just being hard on Sandler and Samberg for their previous sins?
But then I consider that the movie was directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, two surprisingly sophisticated 2-D cartoons, and he was heavily involved in The Powerpuff Girls. And the final screenplay was written in large part by Robert Smigel, whose edgy cartoon sketches were often the only decent part of Saturday Night Live.
Unfortunately the other screenwriter is Borat and Brüno alum Peter Baynham, which seems to have brought out the lower-brow end of Smigel’s humor. And then Sandler and Samberg go for it with gusto. The whole project started with the lowest of expectations, and rose to meet them.
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.