Wednesday, October 10, 2012

welcome to the hotel transylvania

The more Adam Sandler movies that I see (and I seem to be seeing a lot more these days than I ever thought possible) the more I think that I get his appeal. Of course the easy answer is that he makes people laugh. But I think there is something else going on in his movies. Sandler, whether consciously or not, is trying to hold onto what it feels like to be a kid, to be silly. That makes for some seriously juvenile humor at times, which can be a turn-off for many. But being in touch with your inner eight year-old also creates a feeling of goodwill. Sandler's comedies are silly and fun. Just as many jokes miss as hit their mark, but no one, especially Sandler, takes things too seriously. His approach seems to be that if this bit doesn't work, sit tight, something else is sure to. This comic benevolence extends to his roster of acting cohorts, who keep turning up to work with him.

Hotel Transylvania takes this relaxed approach and cast full of familiar Sandler pals and matches it with some truly colorful and attractive animation, courtesy of director Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack) in his feature film debut.

Sandler voices Dracula, a widower and extremely overprotective parent who is raising his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) in the Hotel Transylvania. Tartakovsky has Dracula glide around the castle — calm on the outside, but anxious and desperate to protect his only child in his every word and action. The hotel has been designed as a place where the world's monsters, who are actually fairly non-violent, can be safe from the dangerous and dreaded human population.

Once a year Dracula invites his fellow monsters Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Invisible Man (David Spade), the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), and the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), among others to come and celebrate Mavis's birthday. This year Mavis is turning 118 and is getting curious, to point of distraction, about the world outside the castle walls. Dracula and Mavis will find both of their world's rocked when an unexpected human guest, a backpacker named Jonathan (Andy Samberg), shows up at the castle one evening.

Reviews have been mixed, but as usual Sandler can laugh all the way to the bank, as Hotel Transylvania had the highest-grossing September opening weekend, and is still going strong in its second week. Like Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, the makers of Hotel Transylvania have a love of old horror and monster movies, and viewers will have to pay attention to catch all of the many film references and movie monsters. The hotel is staffed by witches, zombies, and shrunken heads. I also spotted  a giant spider and octopus and a crawling hand, all favorites from '50s horror films. The kid loved the movie, so I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances to catch all of the other creatures when it eventually comes out on DVD.

When I was about my daughter's age I remember seeing The Mad Monster Party on television. I loved it, with all of the monsters and goofy, silly humor. I suspect that Sandler & Co. did too, and this is their take on the movie monsters they loved to be scared by as kids.

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