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Hotel Transylvania

By Philip Martin

This article was published September 28, 2012 at 4:09 a.m.

— Hotel Transylvania

80 Cast: Animated, with voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, CeeLo Green, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz Director: Genndy Tartakovsky Rating: PG, for some rude humor, action and scary images Running time: 90 minutes

Sometimes after a screening, the studio representative will be required to ask the critics in attendance for their reaction to the movie they’d just seen. When they asked me about Hotel Transylvania, the first thing that came to mind, was how refreshing it was that a major studio (Sony Animation) had put out a kid-friendly cartoon that wasn’t in 3-D.

Then they told me, there actually is a 3-D version — the print I’d screened just happened not to be that version.

Oh. Well. Then maybe the best thing I can say about Hotel Transylvania is that it sure looks good. The sand, the fire, all the little textural touches that digital animators came up with — it’s very easy to forget that you’re looking at something that exists only as a string of ones and zeros in the cool heart of a rackmount server.

But there’s something curiously benign about this cartoon, so full of denatured monsters (wussy creatures who need to seek refuge from the wicked humans) and pat jokes. There’s not even a whole lot of vulgarity — there are a few rude jokes, and a couple of bizarre sequences I still don’t understand — but in general the movie’s just kind of pretty and dull. It’s harmless enough, with the right kind of trite message for its target demographic, but it’s just not terribly exciting — despite a deep voice cast comprised largely of Adam Sandler’s cronies.

Sandler provides the voice of Dracula, with the conventional accent and a minimum of fuss. To put it in the best light possible, he doesn’t impose his problematic persona on the character. (None of the supporting voice actors do either, which could be viewed as a sign of admirable restraint. Or as a lack of interest.)

This Drac is a doting dad who wants to keep his daughter Mavis (a lively Selena Gomez) safe from the torchtoting angry mobs who’ve plagued his existence (and killed his beloved, lo those many years ago). To that end he has constructed a supposedly impregnable refuge — a hotel for monsters — deep in the forest in the shadow of the Carpathians. As Mavis’ 118th birthday approaches — a significant date for the undead set — the usual suspects (the Frankenstein crew, Wolfman et famille, mummies, skeletons, et al.) assemble to celebrate the occasion.

And they’re joined by an intrepid human backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), who naturally connects with Mavis. But of course this is one romance that simply cannot be. Right?

Well, there’s a temptation to try to somehow make Hotel Transylvania a piece with some of Sandler’s other projects, like Grown-Ups or the lamentable 8 Crazy Nights. But the truth is, there’s nothing terribly bad about Hotel Transylvania, it’s just not very special.

Unless, I guess, you really like 3-D.

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 09/28/2012

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