Fathers are known for being protective of their daughters, but Dracula (Adam Sandler, “That’s My Boy”) takes the cake in “Hotel Transylvania.” In order to provide a safe place for his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez, “Spring Breakers”) to grow up in, he opens a human-free spa-resort for monsters. On Mavis’ 118th birthday, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg, “Saturday Night Live”) accidentally strolls into their midst and ends up disguising himself as a monster. Dracula takes it upon himself to put a damper on the boy’s developing interest in his daughter. At least, he tries to.
There’s a very “Finding Nemo” feel to Dracula’s relationship with Mavis. Much like how Marlin babies and overprotects Nemo, Dracula fights the necessity of Mavis growing up and following her own path in life, thinking he needs to protect and hide her.
Mavis, as suggested by the movie’s trailers, wants to travel and explore the world, feeling cramped in the hotel after so many years. This movie, like “Finding Nemo,” has a basic theme of parents “growing up,” so to speak, enough to let their children have the chance to do the same.
There are other basic plot similarities between the two movies as well, but they won’t be given away here.
The movie’s voice acting isn’t necessarily Oscar-quality, but it isn’t bad either.
No reason could possibly exist for someone to ever think that Adam Sandler would make a good live-action Dracula. An animated Dracula, however, is well within his kooky range. He pulls of the iconic movie-Transylvanian accent surprisingly well and never abandons it. He does alternate between thicker and lighter versions to help the movie flow along, though. There are times when it gets a bit annoying to listen to, but kids will love it. And he gets bonus points for making a dig at “Twilight” early on in the movie.
Speaking of annoying things that kids will love: Jonathan. His manner of speech is irritating, the various inflections of his voice are cringe-worthy and his personality evokes the spirit of a five-year-old than a grown man. Samberg does a good job with the voice acting, changing it up with various emotions in a fairly convincing performance, but he acts out a dumb character. Jonathan has his moments where you’ll respect and like him, but overall, he’s obnoxiously young in attitude for his age.
Gomez is a good fit for Mavis. The character is, like Gomez’s other notable roles, a stereotypical teenager prone to various levels of drama. However, she isn’t as bad as some of the others she has played. There are fewer instances of whining, stupid mistakes and general awkwardness in this role, and Gomez is able to conform herself to the differences. She’s fun to listen to, and somehow just fits as Dracula’s relatively mature daughter.
The minor characters in the movie are fun too, each with a distinct personality and some witty (if not generally humorous) lines. Fran Drescher’s (“The Nanny”) voice as Eunice is unmistakable, even if it begins to grate relatively quickly.
The dialogue is clever and enjoyable, and while there’s humor geared more to adult viewers, kids have plenty to laugh at too. Many of the jokes are funny at different levels, so no one feels left out if they don’t “get it.” There are little inside jokes that float around as well, such as Jonathan’s name. In Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” one of the main characters to face the iconic vampire is Jonathan Harker, so the fact that a character named Jonathan is at odds with the Dracula character in this movie is deliciously clever.
The movie is fun, and better than expected, but it’s no animated masterpiece. See it for the lively and youthful animation, Halloween-like charm and generally good acting, but don’t expect a “Toy Story” quality plot or “Finding Nemo” levels of charm and endearment, despite the similarities.