In a bid to keep his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from discovering the truths of the real world, and to provide afflicted monsters with an ideal hideaway from the supposedly troublesome humans, Dracula (Adam Sandler) builds a high-end hotel in a secluded part of a dark, trap ridden forrest. But, on the weekend of Mavis’ 118th birthday, when his attention should be solely on her, a curious backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), stumbles into the hotel and brings with him mischief and mayhem.
Boasting a conceit that, on paper, sounds like an absolutely inspired treasure packed with unending potential from a crack team of relative unknowns, it’s hard not to feel let down by the version of Hotel Transylvania that unravels in a tight, yet equally exhaustive ninety minute running time. It’s not that it’s entirely redundant of brilliance. It’s more that through its transition, which included several well documented re-writes and transformations, that distinctive wisdom has been unfortunately expended.
While it may make a strong start with a breezy and trim opening act that acquaints the audience with Dracula, his troubled history (his wife died in a fire caused by humans, resulting in Dracula’s continued desire to keep his life contained) and the inventive hotel in which he’s been hiding away in for the past hundred or so years, it burns itself out far too quickly, eventually succumbs to a predictable, by-the-numbers narrative structure that finds its discouraging finale – when it finally comes – long overdue.
The relationship between Dracula and Mavis is befitting to a point, and Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel’s script offers up some neat ideas about never-ending love and respect, but these plot points become overworke, tedious and passe almost immediately. It’s a relief, then, that visuals are as inventive as they are. The director, Genndy Tartakovsky, who’s previously worked on such quirky and imaginative animated TV series’ as Dextor’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, does his utmost to maintain a level propulsion, and more.
It works on the basis that the film is rich in visual gags and diverting in colourful, vividly designed characters and lively set pieces. Unfortunately, these slim merits aren’t substantial enough, and Hotel Transylvania is ultimately undermined by the spiritlessness of its story and the unexceptional voice work provided by its cast of Saturday Night Live contributors, untrained musicians and Sandler himself, whose irksome tone is made even more irritating thanks to a botched Russian accent.