Monday, December 03, 2012

Hotel Transylvania

Enjoy Your Stay!

It's without a doubt that the trend of recent animated films have to revolve around the horror genre and/or involving legendary characters reworked to offer a unique selling point. And because the target audience is primarily the kids, the scary bits have all been toned down, becoming comedic event, to tell stories that possess feel good themes around stuff like family, friendship and the likes. So if you've not said hello to ParaNorman, Rise of the Guardians, or Frankenweenie, then why not check in to Hotel Transylvania?

As you would have skimmed the story from the trailer, it involves an over-protective father, the count Dracula himself (voiced by funnyman Adam Sandler), who have for the longest time looked after his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) as a single parent, and convincing the child that the big bad world out there is full of vengeful humans who won't bat an eyelid to get rid of those who are innately different, namely the vampires like themselves. And to fulfill this grand plan, comes his creation of Hotel Transylvania, which doubles up as safe haven for his monsters brethren to check in, and seek vacation and refuge from their human pursuers.

But as Mavis becomes a teenager at 118 years old, one would come to expect the usual rebellious and curious streak in wanting to get out, explore and experience the world for herself. Then comes the surprise visit by a human - Jonathan (Andy Samberg), whose identity gets kept secret by Dracula for fear of losing his clientele who have turned up in droves to celebrate the birthday of Mavis, and try as he might to get rid of Jonathan, one thing turns into another, with Jonathan more than welcome to stay by the hotel's guests while under disguise, and inevitably falling in love with someone who's very much his age.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky with screenplay written by the team of Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, Hotel Transylvania is chock full of sight gags, and inside jokes that involve the many monsters in its ensemble. There are enough surprises thrown up as the many pop cultural references get weaved into the classical backgrounds of classic monsters such as Franenstein (Kevin James) and his loud wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), the werewolf (Steve Buscemi) and his pack of kids, and he Invisible Man (David Spade), all making leading appearances, with most of the best scenes in the film involving almost everyone on screen at the same time. The romance bit perhaps came on a little too late to breathe some life into the final act, but it's something of a loose end that had to be tied up.

Despite having an ensemble voice cast and a myriad of characters, some that only appear for a few scenes such as the blob, or big foot (used to great comic effect exploiting its size), the best repartee irrevocably belongs to the adversarial Dracula and Jonathan, with one adamant in getting rid of his human gatecrasher, while the other just finds the place radical enough to want to stay a little longer, at the expense of dangerously bringing himself exposed to the truth by some naysayers. Coming a close second are the rip-roaring one liners spouted by the Shrunken Heads, which convey notices outside each hotel room door.

There's hardly a scary moment save for Dracula's first instance of fury which the little ones will get used to, before Hotel Transylvania takes the bull by the horns and tackle issues like for parents to let go and have trust that their children will turn out alright as they venture on their own, and for the kids to realize that their parents have nothing but their best of interests at heart. What surprised me a lot more is its square take on discrimination, and reminder on never jumping to conclusions about others, and being all inclusive and accepting of those who are different. How's that for a monster movie?

The Hollywood animation formula almost always work with comedy and quality animation, and Hotel Transylvania is no different, except that it made a conscientious effort in putting together a coherent story that showed rather than told, and had good heart (Even though it's about monsters!) to teach the little ones a thing or two while having fun with its material. Recommended, and a surprise package indeed! (And any film that took time to poke fun at Twilight, gets brownie points!)

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