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“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is Relentlessly, Taxingly Zany [Review]

Full disclosure: “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is the first entry into this franchise >this< author has seen. Sometimes, we like to challenge ourselves by picking up a series part way through. Occasionally it concludes in a delightful result. Such as watching “Paddington 2” without having seen the first (which resulted in discovering the first one afterwards – which we cannot recommend enough). Or becoming obsessed with the Fast and Furiousfranchise even though we’d only seen 1 and 2, and then taking about a decade break and skipping to “Furious 7”

More often than not, the result is more masochistic than satisfying. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is one of the latter cases. It’s not that it takes a rocket scientist to be able to follow the plot without having seen the preceding films. However we truly don’t understand the appeal of the films.

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We know how much hard work goes into making a feature film. Animation films in particular are often underestimated in terms of the challenges. So we always try to be somewhat generous to entries in the medium. No one ever sets out to make a BAD film. However there’s only so much grace we can lend a project before acknowledging it’s just not enjoyable. 

Stake Us, Please

Within the first two minutes of “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” we already felt like a headache was inevitable. The film is a mix of relentless zaniness with … dealing with the woes of passing a generational torch?

Drac (voiced once again by Brian Hull doing an anemic Adam Sandler Dracula impression) is considering handing over the keys to the titular hotel to his daughter Mavis (played by Selena Gomez). But his disdain for having to also pass the ownership to his bumbling human son in law Johnny (Andy Samberg who is the only one who doesn’t seem to be phoning it in) leads to hijinks. Oh and to the cast of monsters being turned into – gasp – NOT monsters. Oh and Johnny INTO a monster. How the tables have turned?

Drac (Brian Hull) and Monster Johnny (Andy Samberg) in Columbia Pictures’ HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA.

We can’t fault any of the stars for cashing in on an easy paycheck. Kathryn Hahn, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Jim Gaffigan, and Molly Shannon all return. Yet like the undead that some of them portray, there’s limited vivacity to their performances.  

Animation Can Be for Everyone

We firmly believe that animation is not just a medium for kids. Sure more often than not films are geared to be inclusive of entire families. However, look at something like “Inside Out” or “Howl’s Moving Castle” as an example that has a compelling story, vivid characters, and emotional depth. Unfortunately “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” lacks all of those things. 

There are a few OH so brief moments between Drac and Johnny that teeter on the edge of being redeeming. Yet the rest of the movie is cobbled together bits that feel like they’d be better served as tv commercials. Even the animation itself seems to have given up. The cartoony style that defined the first (yes okay we saw some animation previews of it but not the WHOLE thing) is now a hollow shell of its former self. It’s like someone took Genndy Tartakovsky’s distinctive pushed style and cut the budget in a quarter. Tartakovsky (who directed the original) somehow serves as writer and executive producer for this one. 

Yes, young children will probably be entertained by the pandering of certain segments. Yet parents may find themselves wanting to claw their eyeballs out. Audiences beyond that should probably stay away from this like a vampire avoids garlic. Instead we would recommend a 2000th rewatching of “Encanto” or heck, even the somewhat mindless Sing 2”.

“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

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