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The second feature in as many months to contain animated zombies (and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie lurking just around the corner), Hotel Transylvania checks in as an anemic example of pure concept over precious little content.
Despite the proven talents of first-time feature director Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory), writers Peter Baynham (Arthur Christmas) and SNL vet Robert Smigel, and a voice cast headed by Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, the collaboration falls flat virtually from the get-go, serving up half-hearted sight gags that have a habit of landing with an ominous thud.
Being given a public airing at the Toronto International Film Festival ahead of its official Sept. 28 opening, the film could initially benefit from a monster marketing push from Sony, but it’s unlikely the “No Vacancy” sign will be lit for long.
Assuming an unsteady Transylvanian accent which, like his bat wings, tends to flit in and out of the picture, Sandler’s overprotective daddy Dracula is having trouble shielding his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) from outside elements on the eve of her 118th birthday.
Determined to shut himself off from those elements after the death of his wife a century or so earlier at the hands of an angry mob, Dracula had constructed a refuge of an exclusive resort where he and his monstrous ilk could feel free to be themselves.
But when a party crasher turns up in the form of Jonathan (Samberg), a slacker human backpacker who catches Mavis’ eye, the Count finds it increasingly difficult to keep her under his wing.
While director Tartakovsky’s retro pop sensibilities served Cartoon Network well with the likes of Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, and Hotel Transylvania has an undeniable visually zippy style, the ghost of a script by Baynham and Smigel provides him with very little of substance.
For the most part there’s just a lot of dashing about the hotel’s cavernous hallways as the assembled voice cast (also including Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade and CeeLo Green) attempts to lend some personality to the underdeveloped characters.
Ironically, the scattered enterprise exhibits signs of life when the characters leave the confines of the hotel, but that hint of something more arrives too late in the game.
And while those 3D glasses really bring nothing to the party, Mark Mothersbaugh’s lively score adds a ghoulish cool to the otherwise uninspired proceedings.
Opens: Friday, September 28 (Columbia Pictures)
Production companies: Sony Pictures Animation
Voice cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green.
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenwriters: Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel
Executive producers: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel, Allen Covert
Producer: Michelle Murdocca
Production designer: Marcelo Vignali
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Editor: Catherine Apple
Rating: PG, 91 minutes.
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