When I saw the name Genndy Tartakovsky listed in the credits for the new animated picture Hotel Transylvania, I did a momentary “aha!” remembering that he had been involved with some of my favorite (and long ago) Cartoon Network series, like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and, of course, the Powerpuff Girls. Those shows all shared an innovative sense of design, not to mention quirky humor and snappy timing. In short, they were like candy to new parents anxious to wean the offspring off Fraggle Rock reruns and not yet cognizant of the darker, more sardonic grace notes of the offerings.
Tartakovsky directs Hotel Transylvania, which features a veritable who’s who of late-night stand-up comics and Adam Sandler co-stars. Sandler himself stars as the voice of Dracula, a brooding, grieving widower intent on keeping his daughter Mavis (an appealing Selena Gomez) safe from the threat of humans, whom he holds responsible for the death of his beloved wife Martha. Drac orders up a Citizen Kane-type facility, replete with all the latest in security devises, to keep tourists at bay. There he raises Mavis while entertaining monsters seeking relief from the same old, same old. All goes well—if, for adventure-seeking Mavis, rather dully—until hapless backpacker Jonathon (Adam Samberg) stumbles onto the scene and falls for Dracula’s daughter.
Hotel Transylvania’s 3D format will provide eye-popping visual treats in scenes in which Drac welcomes old pals and current paying guests like Gary, the Invisible Man (David Spade), Frank, as in Stein (Kevin James), Murray the Mummy (Cee-Lo Green), and Wayne, the big bad wolf now turned daddy-several-times-over (Steve Buscemi). The humor is easy and guy-like, in a Diner kind of way. Sandler’s vocal inflections are mellifluous and keyed beautifully to the swirling, dervish-like movements of his character’s animation. Indeed, for all its high-tech wizardry, Hotel hearkens back to a time when our animated characters spun and glided and walked on walls like they were, well, nothing.
Much has been made of the movie’s opening jump on Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. The films are like-minded in terms of ghoulish creatures and our love of fright-night chills and spills, but that’s really all it is—an embarrassment of kiddie-film riches for the Halloween season.
At least it’s better than an apple.