Written by Patrick Hao
The “Hotel Transylvania” films have consistently been a quality series since the original film debuted in 2012. Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel’s Borscht Belt style humor mixed with Genndy Tartakovsky’s innovative character animation makes the series the closest thing to Chuck Jones’s Looney Tunes in the 21st century. “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” the fourth installment in the series is the first to neither star Sandler nor be directed by Tartakovsky, yet the film keeps in line with the quality and spirit that has run through its predecessors. A lot of that can be attributed to directors Derek Drymon and Jennifer Klusky. both acolytes of Tartakovsky and storyboard artists of the first two “Hotel Transylvania” films. Tartakovsky also has screenplay credit, and his influence in both the animation and gags are evident throughout.
Drac is back, this time voiced by Youtube impressionist and voice-over artist Brian Hull capturing the spirit of Adam Sandler’s voice but is not an outright imitation. Naturally conservative and resistant to change, Drac is contemplating retirement on the 125th anniversary of the hotel’s opening and letting his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and human son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) run the hotel. However, the thought of moving on and his skepticism of his son-in-law – a through-line throughout the series – makes Drac reconsider and tell Johnny and Mavis that he cannot pass on the hotel to them because of a “real estate law” that prevents a non-monster from owning the property.
Not wanting to be the reason to disappoint Mavis, Johnny uses mad scientist Van Helsing’s (Jim Gaffigan) newly invented crystal ray gun that changes him into a dragon monster. In a series of mishaps, the ray gun also hits Drac, sapping him of all his vampire powers and making him human with a potbelly and receding hairline. The ray also inadvertently hits a fountain that turns Drac’s gang – Griffin the invisible man (David Spade), Wayne the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), and Frank the Frankenstein’s Monster (Brad Abrell replacing Kevin James) – into humans as well. Like all of the other films, Drac and Johnny have to put any differences aside and form an unlikely duo to go to South America and find a new crystal to turn everyone back.
The film treads a lot of familiar territories in both stories and gags. And while the pleasures of the earlier installments of the series are diminishing, there is something to be said for the beautiful character animation that is presented. Of the CG animated films out there, the fluidity and flexibility of the physics at play still feels refreshing. What is funnier than Drac sneaking through a crowded ballroom by tiptoeing on his fingers. There have been fewer verbal gags since Sandler and Smigel left the writing staff, but that just allows the Looney Tunes style of visual comedy to shine.
“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is still undoubtedly made for children. There is a lack of depth to its storytelling but the earnestness of the family dynamics that are common throughout the series is strong. For a family animated comedy, you cannot do much worse than the always dependable and frequently funny “Hotel Transylvania” series.
Hotel Transylvania Transformania Trailer
“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is available on Prime Video.
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