Who knew 2012 would be the year of the horror-themed animated movie? “ParaNorman” came out during summer and Tim Burton’s homage to “Frankenstein,” “Frankenweenie,” will be released in October. This week, a new comedy about classic terror characters, “Hotel Transylvania,” debuts in theaters.
In a short prologue, an ultra-serious Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) builds a hotel to keep supernatural beings, including his only daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), safe from humans. The story then skips to the present day, with the hotel being visited by infamous faces including Murray the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), a werewolf named Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and even Frankenstein (Kevin James).
Dracula loves his daughter but is very overprotective, because he fears humans will treat her harshly. The vampire is shocked when an average guy, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), finds himself inside Dracula’s hotel and falls in love with Mavis.
One aspect of “Hotel Transylvania” that immediately stands out is the gifted voice cast. Sandler is usually at his most interesting when taking risks in his performances, which applies in this movie. He plays Dracula very straight, even when the situations are ridiculous. The contrast makes Sandler’s vocal performance all the more comical.
Samberg is usually a creative and hysterical comedic actor, but the trailers erroneously depict Jonathan as an obnoxious wannabee hipster. Instead of being an irritating nuisance, Jonathan is instantly likeable because Samberg creates an upbeat guy who loves spending time with the bizarre tourists.
Gomez is also strong as a girl who loves her dad, but at the same time seeks independence. She comes across as a sympathetic and relatable young adult who just happens to be a vampire.
In supporting roles, everyone does strong work with scene-stealing turns by Sandler regulars including David Spade as a deadpan Griffin, the Invisible Man, and Jon Lovitz who plays a “Looney Tunes”-esque version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Quasimodo.
“Hotel Transylvania” is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the man responsible for smart Cartoon Network programs such as “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samurai Jack.” His alternatively clever and wacky sense of humor transfers well to the big screen with the jokes primarily coming at a rapid-fire pace.
A flaw that occurs a few times within the first 30 minutes or so is when Tartakovsky tries to blend laughs with a heartfelt relationship between Dracula and Mavis. During these small sequences, the serious parts don’t blend well with the goofy tones set by screenwriters Peter Baynham and the legendary Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog himself: Robert Smigel. The drama is abandoned for a while, but in the second half, a few plot points come across as earnest. The difference is it now fits more with the events onscreen, and the messages involving romantic and family love feel authentic.
“Hotel Transylvania” is surprisingly enjoyable and good-natured, kid-friendly entertainment that is too lighthearted to resist. There may not be a single scare during the flick, but it’s a well-done farce.