Stake it up at ‘Hotel Transylvania’

Karl R. de Mesa
Check in where the monsters are at in this animated romp through vampire country

TEEN ROMANCE. Mavis and Jonnystein find a most unusual love. All stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures

MANILA, Philippines – If you’ve ever seen Adam Sandler and his Opera Man routine on old “Saturday Night Live” clips, then you’ll be delighted to know that he channels a version of this persona to bring the overdramatic and dignified Count Dracula to vocal life in this movie. 

The premise being, the world’s most famous monsters like Frankenstein, the Werewolf, the Invisible Man and the Mummy are all buddies and are just like regular people.

Meaning, they have families and domestic problems, familiar hassles and a need to get away from it all. 

Enter Hotel Transylvania, exactly the place for a grand vacation, monster-style. Sumptuous, sprawling and with security that’s so outrageous only a vampire wanting to hide from the prying eyes of the world would be paranoid enough to build it.

Really, the plot and story treatment are nothing to write home about, but you should really go see this one for the visual thrust.

See, it’s directed by cartoon provocateur Genndy Tartakovsky. This is the same guy who was hand-picked by George Lucas to create “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” and the brains behind such landmark TV series as “Samurai Jack” and “Dexter’s Laboratory.”

FRIENDS ARE THERE. Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and Johnnystein (Andy Samberg) find out they actually like each other.

I also loved his stylish and memorable prologue for the future noir movie “Priest.” 

In any case, it is at the Hotel that Count Dracula has raised his only daughter, a precocious vamp named Mavis (Selena Gomez).

His wife, we are casually told, was a casualty of human intolerance.

As a knee jerk reaction, Drac built the Hotel not only to protect his child, but also thought about the rest of the monster world and their need for chillaxation.   

118 years later, it’s a special weekend, as Mavis is coming of age as a bloodsucker teen. And she wants what every teen does: adventure, to see what’s out there.

Which naturally sends Drac’s daddy senses into over drive. 

FIVE-STAKE SERVICE! The monsters need to chillax, too.

Nevertheless, the Count has still invited some of his best friends. The visiting characters are voiced by A-list celebs, and they’re what makes this setting as lively as the castle itself.

There’s Wolf Man Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Murray the Mummy (CeeLo Green) and Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his bride (Fran Drescher). 

Catering to these legendary monsters is no problem for the Count, actually. He could be the perfect host in his torporous sleep.

What’s really got him worried is how, after everything he’s done to protect his little girl, everything just might come crashing down when an ordinary guy (a human teen) stumbles into the hotel, takes one look at Mavis, and falls into a deep crush.

“One of the toughest things you have to do as a parent is to let your children go out into the world,” said producer Michelle Murdocca in the notes.

“You can’t protect them; you just have to trust that they’re going to be able to take care of themselves.

“It turns out that even Dracula thinks the world can be a scary place sometimes.” True, that.

DADDY'S GIRL. Count Drac fears his daughter will go the way of her mother.

See, at the heart of this is the story of an overprotective father and a headstrong daughter who have been cooped up too long indoors. I mean, literally.

The Count may fear sunlight and garlic, but that’s nothing compared to his fear of losing his only daughter — especially after it’s revealed how he lost Mavis’s mother.   

One especially poignant and, if we get down to it, aberrant thing that the Count does to ensure his daughter’s protection is allowing her to go out and see the human village that isn’t far from the castle. 

When Mavis flies down there, it’s revealed that the village is as fake as a Hollywood sound stage.

The Count has actually arranged for the “human” village to be built and peopled by his zombie servants, masked as violent, torch-wielding, hoe-brandishing “humans” who attack Mavis and scare her into staying in the castle… forever! 

If Mavis wasn’t a vampire, this would be a sick, sick way to coddle your progeny. 

BIRTHDAY BLUES. The grand hotel has become Mavis' home and prison.

Jonathan/Johnnystein (Andy Samberg) as the classic “stranger who comes to town” shakes things up for the dry as dust monsters by simply playing disguise as a party planner — yeah, the Count decided not to eat him since, “it’ll set monster society back hundreds of years.” 

While he does get the pants scared off him at first, when he realizes that everything’s real, his adventurous nature quickly takes over and he shows those creatures that nobody can party like a human teen can.

Especially Dracula who, with control issues up the wazoo, can’t flow with chaos at all. 

“There’s a humanity to [these monsters] that makes them accessible,” said Tartakovsky. “And that’s what we’ve found for our Dracula — there’s a great, accessible, bittersweet story, where you see how human the vampire is.” 

In addition to all the fun and games, there’s a very touching way that the chemistry between Mavis and Johnnystein is done as the human boy coaxes the endearing sensibilities of the vamp girl, who has never even dared to hide in the shadows to witness a sunrise. 

Ah, animated puppy love. Thing is, there’s a song and dance number complete with auto-tuned choruses that I couldn’t stand.  

'OUR PRECIOUS.' All the monster aunts and uncles dote on the vamp teen, Mavis.

When ti comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with a traditional allegory type tale done in top shelf animation to bring the whole family to, if you’ve ever been as harassed and put upon as the Wolf Man has with his dozens of kids. 

I mean, if it’s Tartakovsky-crafted, so it’ll be a guaranteed feast for the eyes.

Just watch out for Frankenstein’s stink bombs. – 


“Hotel Transylvania” opens in Philippine theaters on Sept 28.

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