‘Hotel Transylvania: Transformania’ Checks Out on a Fun but Familiar Note

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Published January 19, 2022
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Dracula, voiced by Brian Hull, and Johnny, voiced by Andy Samberg, take a good look at their newly transformed selves. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

For a decade now, the artists and animators at Sony Pictures Animation have invited audiences to “Hotel Transylvania.” It tells the saga of a luxury hotel for monsters run by Count Dracula and the misadventures that ensue when a human stumbles across it.

Audiences and animation fans have been enthralled by the zippy slapstick humor and fun set of characters for three theatrical films, some shorts and a prequel television series.

The final film in the series, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” jumps to Amazon Prime Video in light of the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It takes the opportunity to expand on the relationship between the aforementioned vampire and his human son-in-law, Johnny. The duo switch species due to the use of a transformation ray, and they must travel to South America to find a jewel to transform back into themselves.

The cast travels to South America in a blimp to discover a way to reverse the transformation. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

The cast travels to South America in a blimp to discover a way to reverse the transformation.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

 

The appeal of these films has always been the ensemble of movie monsters and humans who frequent the hotel. Dracula and Johnny’s relationship has been a focal point of the franchise as far back as when the latter stumbled upon the hotel in the first film.

Seeing Johnny transformed into a monster and a human Dracula bond over their respective outlooks on life is a particularly nice scene, as well as one that helps the two truly get to understand each other.

The other monsters, including the Invisible Man, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster, get transformed as well, and they provide plenty of humorous moments.

The monsters provide plenty of humorous moments. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

The monsters provide plenty of humorous moments.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

One thing that draws people to this franchise is the animation, which is wonderfully cartoony, à la the classic Chuck Jones and Tex Avery shorts. Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of shows like “Samurai Jack” and “Primal,” imbued the limitlessness of the medium into directing the first three films.

This go-around, Tartakovsky executive produced and was among the screenwriters, but directing duties were handed off to industry veterans Derek Drymon (“SpongeBob SquarePants”) and Jennifer Kluska (“Bee Movie”). They manage to maintain the fast energy the first three films had while giving this film its own unique aesthetic.

Head of character animation Alan Hawkins and character designer Craig Kellman also deserve credit for their work in bringing the new human versions of the monsters to life.

Most of the original cast returns, among them Andy Samberg as Johnny and Selena Gomez as Dracula’s daughter, Mavis. Having voiced the characters for a decade now, they know them inside and out and fit within the world.

Selena Gomez, a member of the original cast, returns to voice Mavis. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Selena Gomez, a member of the original cast, returns to voice Mavis.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

However, two of the biggest cast members from the first three films, Adam Sandler and Kevin James, opted to sit this entry out. Taking over for their respective roles as Dracula and Frankenstein are Brian Hull and Brad Abrell. Both do solid work, with Abrell in particular sounding practically identical to James’ performance.

It should be noted that the “Hotel Transylvania” movies are family comedies first. The stories follow a formula that primarily consists of Dracula screwing up and learning a lesson about acceptance and family. Only the third film deviated from this. Because of this, certain aspects of the story have a “been there, done that” feeling to them.

Some characters from previous entries end up getting sidelined in this film after playing major roles in the past, including Johnny and Mavis’ son Dennis and his werewolf best friend Winnie. The character Vlad, played by Mel Brooks in the second and third movies, is completely absent and is missed.

Despite these issues, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” does a fine job serving as a finale to the franchise. The animation is still excellent and boundary-breaking. Seeing these characters one last time is nice, as they explore new territory and their journeys feel naturally completed.

It has been a nice 10-year stay at the Hotel Transylvania, but it is time to check out.

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