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June 18, 2013
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June 18, 2013

BLU-RAY REVIEW: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA

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MSRP $40.99
RATED PG
STUDIO Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME 120 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES
– Commentary With Director Genndy Tartakovsky, Producer Michelle Murdocca, and Visual Effects Supervisor Daniel Kramer
– Goodnight Mr. Foot
– Prologue
– Making the Hotel
– Progression Reels
– “Monster Remix” Music Video by Becky G Featuring will.i.am
– Making of “Monster Remix”

The Pitch

A gorgeous facade, but I wouldn’t book an extended stay.

The Humans

Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Cee Lo Green

The Nutshell

Dracula (Adam Sandler) owns and runs Hotel Transylvania, a hotel where all of the world’s monsters can go to get away from humans for awhile. Every year, the most famous of all the monsters get together to celebrate the birth of Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez). As her 118th birthday celebration gets underway, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) finds his way into the hotel. Realizing this would cause a panic, it’s up to Dracula to prevent the other monsters, especially his daughter, from discovering him.

The Lowdown

I grew up on Genndy Tartakovsky cartoons. The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack were some of my favorite shows as a kid and had a large hand in developing my sense of humor. The animation for these shows always impressed me, even if I never really understood what went into making them.

This is why we can't have nice things.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Surprisingly, up until Hotel Transylvania, Tartakovsky had never directed a full length feature film intended for the big screen. Interestingly, he almost didn’t direct this one either. Hotel Transylvania went into development in 2006, with two relative unknowns set to direct. The position was actually filled 5 times before Tartakovsky finally landed the gig. He proceeded to rewrite the script in order to better match his style, and thank goodness he did. Hotel Transylvania may still be lacking in many areas, but Tartakovsky’s distinct style manages to shine through and makes the film more than watchable.

The flick takes the manic energy of Tartakovsky’s early cartoons and transfers it to the realm of CGI. There isn’t a single frame that isn’t filled to the brim with stuff. There are literally dozens of creatures staying at the hotel, and although most of them are never singled out they’re almost always doing something interesting when on-screen. Small trinkets and signs are thrown about the various set pieces to provide extra laughs for viewers with a keen eye (or a pause button). This attention to detail is something we don’t see in many children’s films outside the realm of Pixar, and it’s nice to see it addressed.

It’s unfortunate that the laughs are reserved solely for these visual flourishes, as there is indefinite comedy potential in having all of these monsters in one place. The film seems to realize this, but only sometimes. Having Frankenstein shipped to the hotel in cardboard boxes is cute, and the movie does some clever things with the invisible man, but for the most part Hotel Transylvania relies on body humor and childish pranks to generate his humor. It’ll make the intended audience laugh, but children’s movies have also learned to cater to the parents who are forced to sit through them numerous times as well. Tartakovsky has made a valiant effort to do what he can with what he was given as far as the script goes, but unfortunately it isn’t enough. This is where things start to get messy.

Yep. This is "humor".

Yep. This is “humor”.

As far as the voice cast is concerned, this is probably the best thing Sandler and his crew have been involved in for quite some time. While Sandler’s Dracula accent isn’t great, he provides a warmth to the character I wasn’t expecting. He makes the relationship between Drac and his daughter believable, which helps the paper thin plot out a bit. Selena Gomez and Andy Samberg are also solid as the other two leads in the film. Samberg is especially great, lending the film some energy it desperately needs in the second act.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast ranges from passable to downright bad. It isn’t that any of the vocal performances are lacking, it’s that they simply don’t fit the characters they were assigned. Sandler loves to bring his buddies on board for most of his movies, but this time it just wasn’t the right decision. Hearing Kevin James voice coming out of Frankenstein never stopped bothering me for the entire film, and while Steve Buscemi is rather funny, he’s simply off as a Werewolf. Cee Lo Green is the worst of the bunch, obviously around solely for the musical numbers in the film.

Dr. Seuss called, he wants his character back.

Dr. Seuss called, he wants his character back.

Speaking of musical numbers, this flick has one of the worst soundtracks in recent memory. Using pop hits simply because their “pop hits” can work in some films, but not here. The ending dance number is so obvious and silly that it completely ruins the climax. I’m sure kids won’t notice and will have a great time dancing around with their favorite characters, but ugh. I couldn’t stand it. I will not that the score itself, written by Mark Mothersbaugh, is actually quite good, but it gets lost amidst the licensed music.

Its great to see Tartakovsky finally make the jump to the big screen, but I’m sad to see his talent wasted on such a mediocre film. The story is predictable and really does nothing new with all of the monsters it plays around with, and the voice cast is mostly lacking. You could certainly do worse as far as children’s animated films are concerned, and those of you who are really in love with the Universal Monsters may get a kick out of a few of the gags, but unless you’re interested in animation there are better ways to spend your time.

The Package

Tartakovsky’s animation simply bursts off the screen with this Blu-ray transfer. The lighting in this flick is phenomenal, and it really pops on a good setup. The audio quality is also great, though you may not want it to be after hearing the soundtrack.

The blu-ray comes packed with special features, though almost all of them are geared towards kids. The music video was grating after about 10 seconds, as was the making of said video. The extra short, Goodnight Mr. Foot, is cute enough I suppose. The only real film featurette here is the short making of doc that doesn’t really do much besides praise the film and the people behind it. There is a lot to the package, but most of it won’t be much use to anyone over the age of 13.

[Rating: 2.5]