‘Hotel Transylvania’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 4:14 am,

Hotel Transylvania Adam Sandler Selena Gomez Hotel Transylvania Review

Hotel Transylvania includes some interesting standalone design choices, such as Tartakovsky’s keen visual aesthetic, but there are a lot of conflicting ideas at play in the movie.

For many entertainment fans, Genndy Tartakovsky is best known for his work directing the hand-drawn Star Wars animated spin-off series, Clone Wars (but not the CGI follow-up The Clone Wars). The art style of the animated show successfully brought a fresh design to iconic Star Wars characters like Yoda and the Clone Troopers; as a result, when fans heard that the filmmaker was set to helm DreamWorks’ latest CGI film, Hotel Transylvania, many were equally interested to see what the director could do with horror staples like Dracula and Frankenstein.

Despite serving as the sixth director on the long-in-development project, early screenshots showed that the movie did feature interesting Tartakovsky visual aesthetics and those familiar with the director continued to be optimistic. Now that the film has released, has Tartakovsky, along with a cast of well-known vocal talent (including Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Molly Shannon, and David Spade, among others), delivered an animated feature that’s on-par with prior Dreamworks Animation projects (Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon) – a fun but heartwarming film for moviegoers of all ages?

Unfortunately, outside of the sharp animation style, Hotel Transylvania is hard to recommend to anyone but parents looking to distract their kids for a few hours with a hyperactive movie experience. Adults will find a few chuckle-worthy gags and children will have plenty of colorful monsters and lowbrow antics to keep their eyes busy but, in spite of the film’s thin attempt to strike at something deeper, very little of the onscreen action is unique or memorable. Some viewers will, no doubt, write off any potential criticisms with the oft-referenced argument that “it’s just a kids movie”; nevertheless, animation studios (DreamWorks included) have shown that animated films can work on a number of levels – with as much to offer adults as their younger counterpart. However, unlike those films, Hotel Transylvania is overstuffed with on-the-nose humor and an underwhelming storyline that each borrow heavily from other animated films, especially Finding Nemo, without offering anything new or compelling to the mix.

Hotel Transylvania Adam Sandler Andy Samberg Hotel Transylvania Review

Dracula (Adam Sandler) and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) in ‘Hotel Transylvania’

The familiar story follows overprotective Dad, Count Dracula (Sandler), who is convinced that humans are dangerous – and, as a precaution, builds an enormous castle (and hotel) where monsters can take refuge… and the count can hide his vampire daughter Mavis (Gomez) away forever. Convinced that humans are not to be trusted, scary creatures from all across the world come to vacation behind the safety of the castle walls – while, at the same time, Mavis dreams of leaving the compound, traveling, and visiting “Paradise” (aka Hawaii). However, just when Mavis has given up on venturing into the outside world, Jonathan (Samberg), a human, inadvertently party crashes Hotel Transylvania – forcing Dracula, after 118 years of fearful hiding, to face the possibility that humans might have moved past their torch and pitchfork anti-monster days.

While the narrative does lock into an almost heartwarming track by the end of the film, the first fifteen minutes of Hotel Transylvania serve as a very clear indicator as to how the majority of the ninety-one minute runtime is going to play out – a gag per second mishmash of fart jokes, slapstick violence, and eye-rolling one-liners. The focus shifts quickly from one gimmick to the next, with no time for jokes to resonate, resulting in an overwhelming stream of gags – as if the filmmakers weren’t particularly sure which ones would actually land. Even more problematic, the movie never attempts to present any of the characters, even Dracula and Mavis, with enough sincerity to make the final act, which attempts to be heartfelt and profound, actually payoff. Instead, viewers are left with yet another overly-generalized story about “true love” – without grounding the story in genuine character moments.

Samberg’s Jonathan is the most egregious example in the batch – since, in spite of Tartakovsky’s attempts to sell him as a love interest for Mavis, the character is more often presented as a brainless drifter with poor hygiene – who, faced with impending death, obsesses over the fate of his backpack. Aside from a few thoughtful gestures, Jonathan is nothing more than a thin and downright irritating counter-balance for nearly every main character to playoff. Mavis is isolated, so Jonathan is an adventurer, Dracula is uptight, so Jonathan is free spirited, Cee-Lo Green and Selena Gomez are in the movie, so Jonathan performs a couple of musical numbers. If Hotel Transylvania didn’t spend so much time trying to say something profound about love, it’d be easy to overlook a character like Jonathan but it’s hard to take anything the movie says seriously when the filmmakers regularly rely on slapstick comedy instead of engaging characters to keep audiences invested.

Hotel Transylvania Selena Gomez Kevin James Steve Buscemi Hotel Transylvania Review

Griffin The Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (Ceelo Green), Wanda (Molly Shannon), Wayne (Steve Buccemi), Frank (Kevin James) and Mavis (Selena Gomez) in ‘Hotel Transylvania’

Similarly, very little is actually done with the great character designs of the various monsters inhabiting the film – forcing the iconic creatures into revisiting the same gags over and over ad nauseam. Even with a cast of familiar voices, most of the monster moments are so dull that typically energetic performers like Steve Buccemi and Fran Drescher are simply lost in the shuffle. That said, none of the other monsters have to utter dialogue that is quite as half-baked and unfunny as Sandler’s attempt to marry his Dracula impersonation with “surfer dude talk.”

Hotel Transylvania is playing in 3D as well as 2D theaters and, as is usually the case with animated films, the effect is noticeable but this time isn’t used in a particularly compelling or unique way. It’s unfortunate, considering the added dimension does make certain characters a little more interesting to look at (such as Murray the Mummy), but similar to the characters and story, the 3D visuals are mostly forgettable – and don’t add enough value for the overarching experience to justify an upgraded ticket.

Hotel Transylvania includes some interesting standalone design choices, such as Tartakovsky’s keen visual aesthetic, but there are a lot of conflicting ideas at play in the movie – especially the off-putting juxtaposition of near-sincere character moments and lowbrow poop jokes that prevent the film from ever being especially heartfelt or funny. Kids will enjoy watching all of the goofy monsters interact but the film’s head-scratching depictions of “true love” and “accepting others” reveal that the Hotel Transylvania filmmakers might have been spending too much time with Frank N. Stein (voiced by Kevin James) – ultimately delivering an awkwardly proportioned and poorly stitched together movie experience.

If you’re still on the fence about Hotel Transylvania, check out the trailer below:


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Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Hotel Transylvania is Rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)

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  1. one and a half stars…wow

    Maybe a different rating system should be used when reviewing kids animated movies?

    • I was debating between 1.5 and 2 but with so many great kids movies out right now – ParaNorman, etc. I’ve just seen so many kids movies that are superior in every way.

      As I mentioned, kids will like the flashy characters but there’s no real substance to it beyond that – the story and “message” of the movie is thin.

      I just think animated movies are beyond getting a pass anymore just because they are directed at families.

      • Wow, thats exactly how I felt about paranorman…

      • I love the movie it is very funny.Is there going to be a second part to the movie.I love to see what happens to the hotel and what happens to mavis and johnny and all the other monsters.love it.cheryl szarenski

  2. Never had any hope for this movie… the trailer was annoying and after all his flops lately, the sound of Adam Sandler’s voice annoys me even more.

    • And after watching Andy Samberg’s embarrassingly unfunny SNL career I can’t stand him either. They ought to create a new “movies for morons” category to cater to people who find Sandler’s flicks funny.

  3. I was hoping this movie would turn out well but knew it was a long shot. I guess the chances of Tartakovsky getting the thumbs up for a Samurai Jack movie return to slim to none, unless Popeye does well…

    • It Will make good money

  4. my interest in this movie only exists because i can see movies for free and love writing bad reviews…Sandler’s made nothing but crap movies for ages now

  5. Well, it’s a shame it’s not good. I am a huge fan of Genndy Tartakovsky’s work, and I wanted this to shine, if only for the better future potential of a Samurai Jack movie. :):):) If only I was in the 1%, I’d finance the whole darn thing! :)

    • Just face the true facts, a Samurai Jack movie will never see the light of day. Genndy Tartakovsky has been dodging and avoiding the project since forever, why would you think he’s not dedicated to it now. Man has hundreds of other not so original ideas he wants to make, but in the mists of that we can guess none of them would be successful to benefit his career. If you are saying the Samurai Jack movie would cost a lot for the studio itself, well Sony pictures has been constantly asking him about the possibilities and it seems clear he is trying to work away from all of it.

      • I don’t know where you are getting your information, but I have heard the opposite.

  6. Anything with Sandler is destined to suck. Word of advice to studios keep Sandler away from movies for a while he has the quality equivalence of Uwe Boll.

  7. Wonderful.

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  8. People either love Adam Sandler, and everything he pumps out, or they loathe it. I am on the strongest love end of that spectrum and Sandler can do no wrong in my mind. The gang is all here, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James… And from the director of You Don’t Mess with The Zohan! What’s not to be extremely excited about??? I am THERE.

    • Where did you have your lobotomy performed?

      • I don’t get all the Sandler hate in this thread. From what I have seen in the trailer it doesn’t even sound like him. As far as a few people here who are insinuating that GT is the person to blame here, may I remind you that he was the SIXTH director to be brought in. I’m not sure anyone who is brought in as Director Number Six could fix a film that probably was born with issues. As for the movie itself…it looks like some good old fashioned mindless entertainment.

  9. Ouch!

    Sandler should stop trying to be funny. He should play against type and be a serious bad guy in a movie.

    Or stop doing movies period.

    • I’m not trying to rag on Sandler but I see him as a one dimensional actor…plays himself in every movie. Steve Buscemi has gone and done goods roles ala ” Boardwalk Empire” I rather see The Room starring Tommy Wiseau at least he wasn’t trying to be funny…Adam tries and fails.

      • Sandler was pretty good in punch drunk love

        • I was going to say the same thing.At least he has more acting range than Ben Stiller,who I can’t stand.

          I don’t love all of Sandler’s stuff,but when he’s bad,he’s pretty damn bad.On the other side though,when he’s good(granted that’s been a while),he’s pretty good.

  10. The movie was fun, my kids and I enjoyed every minute of it. Adam Sandler was Adam Sandler, I don’t understand why people were disappointed! The “I didn’t do that” little lady was so funny! Loved Kevin James too!

  11. I dnt understand how people still go watch a movie with Adam sandler in it? Little Nicky, that’s my boy, the grown ups, just go and off coarse jack n Jill. I can go on but u get my point

  12. Just go with it

    • +1

      • +2

  13. Our whole family loved it. Can’t wait till it comes out on DVD so we can watch it again and again. Characters are very exciting. don’t care for Sandler but really I’m not actually seeing him.

  14. I loved this movie! It was so cute and funny. Johnny and Count Dracula were my favorite characters to watch. Thier relationship is just too irresistible!

  15. I never really had high hopes for the film, since Jonathon’s character looks so annoying—how could anyone fall in love with him?? But, I’m only going to see it for Steve Buscemi’s character. I had no idea Fran was in it.

  16. hi
    i’ve long been a fan of good animated films – The Incredibles, Up, Finding Nemo, Toy Story (all of them), Monster Inc, Despicable Me, Wally

    This didn’t come close to any of those. I was very disappointed. I don’t think a running stream of (repeated) fart jokes and gags makes for good character. There is no way the ‘zing’ had any basis in character or action – oh wait – sharing a sunrise together is the ultimate – fall-in-love forever experience, which will then survive a huge lifespan difference, etc.

    and to suggest that’s it’s ok that’s so vapid and shallow, because it’s a kid’s movie might have had validity if we haven’t so many incredible examples of great kids’ movies that have transcended age (even the old Disneys like 101 Dalmations, or the Rescuers etc)

  17. just saw the film with my 5 year old son and my 3 year old son. Sure it didn’t its own with movies like The Incredibles, but it was a solid entertaining film. My sons laughed, i had a few good chuckles myself. The humor wasn’t high brow by any-means but it was a nice light romp. As a family film for the youngsters I’d give it a solid 3. we plan on picking up a copy once it’s out on dvd.

  18. Just saw the film with a bunch of friends, having a serious case of Fed-up-with-the-University-lets-watch-something-brain-melting. We chose this particular film ’cause one of my friends found the promo funny, and – for some unknown reason – it’s rated the local equivalent of PG-13.
    Strange as it was, we liked it. Imagine a dozen university freshmen, grinning like idiots during the whole film.

    Ok, you can probably blame it on the fact that the freshmen year is about messing with the ‘new meat’. Or that we are a bunch of physicist and chemist, aka wannabe-mad-scientists (only in our free time!). But we still found it funny.

    It could have been better, of course. It had five other directors before Tartakovsky, and it showed. It seemed that Tartakovsky’s only real impact was on the design, which was, frankly, amazing. As I heard, they already had most of the story and the jokes by the time he arrived, so all he could do was to do some life-saving fixing so it didn’t turn out as a complete failure.

    I can’t really say anything about the original voice acting, as we watched it in Hungarian (my native language). I heard that the original actors did a half-hearted job of it, but it can’t be said about ours, and the translator got rid of about 95% of the bad jokes. It won’t be the first time they did that (I mean changing the script), and based on what little I heard of the original, they made some of the dialogues five times funnier than the English.

    I liked it and I will buy it when it’s out on dvd. After watching a marathon of the pointlessly romantic, painfully cliché films my room mate brings every week to melt her brain after Calculi, it’ll be good to have something close at hand that at least has some sort of originality. It won’t change the world, that’s granted, but there are so many WORSE films out there (especially chick films) that people watch with enthusiasm that I find Hotel Transylvania refreshing.

  19. Just saw Hotel Transylvania on monday, loved it.

  20. This movie was rated most money spent and I think u got what it’s worth it’s a good movie for kids and families and I think the “movies for morons” comment was uneasesary because I found it funny and Adam sander was pretty good!

  21. Hotel Transylvania was produced by Sony Pictures Animation and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Not DreamWorks.
    If it had been DreamWorks it would have been more amazing.

    At least get your basic facts straight before you attempt to review something.