Sunday, 7 October 2012

Hotel Transylvania Review

Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky

Written by: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel

Stars (voices of): Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Ceelo Green

Plot: After an angry mob of humans kills his wife, Dracula (Sandler) sets up a place for the world’s monsters to come and enjoy peace and safety - in the castle walls of Hotel Transylvania. It also becomes a sanctuary set up for his daughter (Gomez) whose desire to see the outside world is invigorated all-the-more once a human (Samberg) finds his way into the hotel and shows them all a different side to life.

Director Genndy Tartakovsky has a very recognisable style – pure energy and frantic movement à la the cartoon mayhem of something like Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry – but for a film like Hotel Transylvania it becomes too disorientating. From the man who has directed episodes of The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, and the writer of brilliant comedy shows such as The Day Today, Brass Eye, and I’m Alan Partridge, this film should unequivocally work wonders. Nevertheless, perhaps it is a “too many cooks spoil the broth” scenario as Hotel Transylvania is a mess.

The characters are likeable but they never seem to blend together adeptly. Frankenstein (to be pedantic - Frankenstein’s monster, as it should be) is said to be Dracula’s best friend but he spends more time with Wayne the werewolf, Murray the mummy and Griffin the invisible man, to seem in any way connected to the iconic blood-sucker. Chances are the writers were not too concerned about the relationship of Dracula and his friends as it is the plot-point of Dracula’s daughter Mavis and her interest in intruding human Jonathan that warrants the most attention. This story is actually well presented once it finds its legs (Dracula’s initial attempts to get rid or hide Jonathan in the hotel leads to a series of dizzying and mundane visual jokes).

Voices aren’t so imposing that you become more distracted by the “whose voice is that?” mystery and fascination and Sandler, Samberg and Gomez’s voices lend themselves perfectly to their characters (as do the rest of the cast, especially Buscemi’s). The development of this trio gives the film some humanity and one scene involving table-arrangement and racing, and another where Jonathan and Mavis enjoy a sunset, really highlights the quality of some of the animation and writing. These more lengthy scenes are where the better jokes lie; one scene where the hotel guests play bingo is hilarious but was clearly too slow to fit in with the enveloping pace and quickly changes into a montage of monster’s dancing and frolicking around.

The major issue with Hotel Transylvania (and an understandable one) is that it needs to remain energetic for the demographic it’s made for. Kids will inevitably love this film as it’s full of slapstick humour, eclectic examples of monsters and 3D incorporated suitably for the action. The director, in regard to this, has been chosen wisely as his knack for optical dynamics and his clear understanding of cartoon physics gives Hotel Transylvania a plentiful amount of visual vivacity. For the adults, however, it’s just too boisterous and many can expect their children to come out of the film roaring, snarling and hissing, inspired by the guests of the film’s hotel. The final song at the end (irritatingly becoming a staple of contemporary animation – bar Pixar) pounds some extra vigour into the film that children will love and adults will sorely hate.

Through a child’s eyes this film seems chock full of wonderful characters, exciting set-pieces and funny skits but for any person above the age of 10 it is a painful endurance test. When moments of calm come they are greatly welcomed and mostly include some of the funniest gags. Nonetheless, surrounding these short pieces of more serene comedy is a tirade of in-your-face tomfoolery that brings about headaches and exasperation.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Blogomatic3000

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