'Hotel Transylvania': Delightful for Kids Only
Glenn Kenny Special to MSN Movies
Sometimes I wonder whether the true function of contemporary pop culture isn't to recycle the inane pap of the past into inane crap. That sounds like a real grumpy-old-man thing to say, I know. But I bet you'd be grumpy too if you just heard the voice of Adam Sandler, rapping, in a Dracula accent ... Auto-Tuned. This definitively unedifying morsel of audio postmodernism awaits the adult viewers of "Hotel Transylvania," in which Sandler himself gives voice to a not un-grumpy old man. This computer-animated movie (like the hula hoop in "The Hudsucker Proxy," it's, you know, for kids!) sees Sandler's Dracula putting up the title structure as a safe haven for his fellow monsters from the cruel outside world that took his wife from him around 1895. Now, in the present day, the light of his life, daughter Mavis, at 118 a feisty vampire young adult, is eager to see the world outside, and this wacky Drac, still fearful of murderous monstrous humans, has to contrive to keep her from trying out her bat wings.
And with the help of his coven of fellow horror-movie not-under-copyright icons, he's determined to keep Mavis castled even as her latest birthday brings her into girl-you'll-be-a-woman-soon territory. The arrival of a werewolf (Steve Buscemi), a Frankenstein's creature (Kevin James), their respective spouses (Fran Drescher and Molly Shannon), an invisible man (David Spade), and other such creature-feature faves gives the movie's early scenes an oddly accented Catskills-humor vibe, only with more pee and poop and fart jokes. A lot more. Wandering into the joint unawares is not-quite-stoner Jonathan, a sweet dude (voiced by Andy Samberg) who's going to be Mavis' first "zing." (Don't ask.) Drac is first appalled, then charmed, by the young fellow, and as he's won over, he finds himself having to protect the kid.
It's a little weird that while this movie could have contented itself with being a kooky genre send-up for kids it also tries to put across some kind of message about parental anxiety. With a goofy cartoon Dracula as its poster boy, no less. Say what you will about "Mad Monster Party," that movie didn't have the gall to try to impart a lesson. If I seem like I was annoyed by pretty much every second of this movie, well, I kind of was. I was even more annoyed when I saw the end credits, and saw that Genndy Tartakovsky, of "Samurai Jack" renown, directed, and that Robert Smigel, of "TV Funhouse" and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog renown, co-wrote. I expect better of these guys. Truth to tell, I expect better of everyone I've mentioned here, including Kevin James. The main reason I'm giving this a more favorable rating than my actual opinion of the movie would seem to call for is because the screening I attended also had a lot of kids in the audience, and most of them were relatively delighted. And as I've said, the movie's for them. Very much for them. Unless you're terribly concerned about shielding them from pee and poop and fart jokes (and if you've been at all successful in this endeavor, you have my heartiest congratulations), go ahead and let 'em see it; they'll love it. Morons. (I didn't say that.)
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film
critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various
publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He
lives in Brooklyn.