January 14th, 2022
MOVIE: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA
STARRING: BRIAN HULL, SELENA GOMEZ, ANDY SAMBERG, STEVE BUSCEMI, DAVID SPADE, JIM GAFFIGAN
DIRECTED BY: DEREK DRYMON, JENNIFER KLUSKA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
When I heard that Adam Sandler would not be involved in the new installment of Hotel Transylvania, my first thought was, “what’s the point”? But now that I’ve watched the fourth installment- yes, the fourth!- maybe Adam Sandler wasn’t the reason any of them succeeded. Often it just takes good writing and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania has just enough charm and entertaining adventure to make it worth it. There’s also a trend with these movies. The first one sucked. The second was a delightful surprise. The third HT was an obvious cash grab. Now this one is just a combination of all those things, where voice actors like David Spade, Andy Samberg, and Molly Shannon don’t mind the paychecks, the animation is bright, yet inventive; And the chance to send Dracula and his crew on a journey to find a magic stone is just enough fun for the family. Transformania won’t change the way you think about the Hotel Transylvania movies but it’s good enough for a brief escape.
The last Transylvania movie was a vacation cruise for Dracula and his gang of Universal monsters, mixed with dumb gags, and a painful dance sequence of the macarena. Now the action starts back at the hotel, where Dracula (now voiced by Brian Hull) is celebrating another year of monster lodging success, and is starting to think about retirement. His hopes are to hand the keys over to daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) but he can’t get over the fact that his son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) is such a bumbling idiot. This gives Drac pause and because Johnny is the problem to his wife’s dream, he seeks the help of the mad man Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who introduces him to a magical gem that has the power to turn him into a monster. When he goes through with it, it leads to turning him into a dragon beast, but has the reverse effect on everyone else, making Dracula just a normal guy, Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) not so invisible, and Wayne the wolfman (Steve Buscemi) only fit with a furry beard. This sends the whole group into a forbidden jungle to find a new gem to turn everyone back into the monsters or humans that they used to be.
The screenplay was written by Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, and Genndy Tartakovsky, three writers that have all been involved in the other installments, so they have a grasp on where the fun can be. There’s a push and pull of two factors in Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. The character of Johnny- voiced by Samberg- is on a Jar Jar Binks level of annoyance. He’s often messing with things he shouldn’t be, his body swings and moves like a wild kite dancing in the wind, and his stupidity is obnoxious. The other factor is how silly things are, which involves powerless Dracula and monster Dragon Johnny traveling through the Amazon forest to find the gem, in which they encounter mosquitoes, falling from giant cliffs, and a new experience for Dracula- the sun. The buddy trip becomes fun enough as it goes on, with laughs along the way, in a race of time to get everyone back to their original selfs.
Coinciding with Drac and Johnny’s journey is Mavis and the rest of the team attempting to catch up to them. This is the sort of stuff that I enjoyed more because there are more options for humor, with Frankenstein (voiced by Brad Abrell) looking more like Frankenstein’s Next Top Model instead of monster, and a cool new souped up blimp made by Van Helsing to get there faster. Like many other animated movies geared towards kids, the trip has minor jokes and gags wedged in along the way, with uplifting messages about how life is like a toasted marshmallow, burnt on the outside, but delicious gooeyness on the inside. Kids will laugh, be entertained enough, while parents will enjoy a swift and harmless family adventure.
I also appreciated how Transformania limits the fart jokes and tries to navigate new comedy for the characters. Dracula’s new found humanity is one of the better parts, where he’s dealing with sweat, blistered feet, and his fading hairline. That stuff made me laugh, but it ultimately comes down to what you can tolerate and what you cannot. At the end, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is as harmless as a new baby bat. I honestly can’t believe this series has made it this far and now it’s succeeding without Adam Sandler. Sometimes a change can do you good, I guess.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA IS PLAYING EXCLUSIVELY ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO JANUARY 14TH, 2022
2 ½ STARS
WRITTEN BY: Leo Brady