Thus, after a lot of delays, ‘Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania’ is here, was it worth it?
Sadly, I don’t think so and I don’t think the delays, nor the personnel changes, have anything to do with it. ‘Transformania’ is, for all intensive purposes, harmless, a fine adventure that features the same likeable characters getting into nonsensical situations that families can sit down (safely at home via Amazon) and enjoy. But that comes at the film’s detriment because, not only does it not offer title loans in Tennessee anything new to these characters, it feels like a red flag that the franchise that started so fun is relying more on old tricks than anything else.
After 125 years in the business, Dracula (voiced by Brian Hull) is looking to retire from running Hotel Transylvania to spend time with his new wife Erica Van Helsing (voiced by Kathryn Hahn). He hopes that his daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) will be able to keep the hotel in good hands, but she overhears the news and believes that both she and her human husband, Johnny (voiced by Andy Samberg), will inherit it.
When Johnny confronts Dracula about this, the worried father-in-law lies and says there’s a real estate rule that only a monster can run the hotel. What’s Johnny to do but ask for help from the mad scientist, Van Helsing himself (voiced by Jim Gaffigan), whose latest inventions can turn any human into a monster. The experiment works, but in the process, Dracula and his monstrous cavalcade are turned into powerless humans. The only replacement for the machine is in the erica, so Johnny, Dracula and, eventually the whole team, journey across the world to fix themselves and, hopefully, settle Dracula’s doubts in the process.
While it’s nice to see Tartakovsky’s style still at play, it’s good to see what co-directors Drymon and Kluska manage to do with the formula. Every walk, facial movement, and emotion still feels zanily vibrant, which allows for some of the comedy to shine through because of just how expressive every character is allowed to be.
The immediate thing I can praise about ‘Transformania’ is the animation which, rather surprisingly, hasn’t dipped in quality over the course of the trilogy
Speaking of the laughs, this movie knows it’s a comedy and I can totally see the humor playing to a fair number of audiences. In addition, while the Johnny/Dracula journey certainly plays into any number of road trip movie cliches, the jokes they get away with are solid. *Even if I’d argue, no spoilers, the best jokes are back at the hotel with the zombie manservants and Van Helsing’s pet hamster.
However, aside from those positives, around the halfway mark, I found myself wondering “do I genuinely care if this plot resolves itself?” The answer quickly became “no” and, for the second, more action-packed half, I just went through the motions as the movie tried to re-incorporate the supporting players to mixed results, and really not buy into the Johnny/Dracula angle.
Particularly game is Samberg, who nails Johnny’s million-words-a-second tone, and his ever-growing monster transformation means new things are constantly being thrown at you
In the first film, and parts of the sequels, Dracula has always been an imperfect, if still genuinely loving father, driven by tragedy and a desire to keep his loved ones safe. But here, he’s just falling back on old habits, even though he has more than enough reasons to trust Johnny and just go away with Erica. It’s a lazy decision that flies in the face of any kind of subtext or interesting narrative choices, even when there are other characters (*cough, Mavis and Erica, cough*) who could very easily address those ideas and settle a lot of these problems.