“Hotel Transylvania” is a harmless and generally amusing animated comedy featuring a raft of familiar movie monsters. Some of the most imaginative aspects of this movie, which is squarely aimed at the younger set, are in the casting. Adam Sandler voices Count Dracula, who in this version, is a widowed single dad determined to protect his infant daughter Mavis (that's right-Mavis, Daughter of Dracula) from the torch-and-pitchfork crowd responsible for the death of his wife.
That description actually makes the movie sound more morbid than it actually is. Kids, of course, are long used to dark backstory in animated features. Remember what the evil queen told the huntsman to do to Snow White? Or what happened to Bambi and Dumbo’s mothers? Or Simba’s father? Other than some expressionistic flashbacks late in the movie, none of what happened to Countess Dracula is onscreen here.
Dracula opens a high-end hotel for monsters only, deep in the mountainous countryside of Transylvania, because that’s not the first place anyone would look for him. The resort, named “Hotel Transylvania,” is supposed to be completely human-proof. Each year, friends of the family arrive for Mavis’ birthday party. Mavis (voice performance by Selena Gomez) is turning 118 this year, and wants nothing more than to see the outside world, something her father is completely opposed to.
Overprotective fathers who screw up with their teenage daughters and then have to find a way to make it up to them is a favorite theme of animated comedies these days, good, bad and indifferent. (The far less entertaining “Ice Age: Continental Drift” recently treaded on similar ground.) “Hotel Transylvania” handles it fairly smoothly, although there is a vague eau de sitcom hanging over the entire affair. The resolution to these dilemmas usually lies in recognizing that the teenager is right, the parent is wrong, and letting the kid have their way. Adding fuel to that fire here is the appearance of Jonathan (voice performance by Andy Samberg), a young and conspicuously human backpacker who catches Mavis’ eye, and vice versa. Unable to scoot Jonathan out the back drawbridge before he’s spotted, Dracula tries to pass him off as a distant relative of Frankenstein’s (voice performance by Kevin James), which works for a while.
This is a far more family-friendly movie than most of Sandler's output lately, particularly this summer's "That's My Boy." The comedy is broad, and young children will likely be unable to resist non-scary monsters doing pratfalls. In addition to regular Sandler cronies Samberg and James, he big name cast also includes Fran Drescher as Eunice, the bride of Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi as a werewolf named Wayne, and CeeLo Green as Murray the mummy, will of course be lost on them. Fortunately, their performances are funny, even if they are stars. Some gags, including the choice of a particular in-flight vampire movie, are aimed at the parent/chauffeurs. Kids may or may not get them.
“Hotel Transylvania” is a generally handsome, 3D, computer-generated animated comedy. Although the 3D unquestionably tends to make this type of animation look extremely lifelike and immersive, it is not exploited here in the sense of sending objects hurtling off the screen. Cost-conscious parents should not hesitate to buy the less expensive 2D tickets.
"Hotel Transylvania" is now playing at Capital District theaters including: The Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland in Schenectady, the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, the Regal Cinemas Latham Circle Mall 10, the Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13 and the Regal Cinemas East Greenbush 8.