Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a high energy franchise entry with funny reactions, outsized animation and random jokes.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a high energy franchise entry with funny reactions, outsized animation and random jokes. While it may be stuck on frantic the whole time, the speed of the gags and numerous moments work. The character roster has gotten rather huge over four movies and a few sidekicks are relegated back in importance. Mostly, the film is about an odd couple road trip as the responsible one swings in to save the day. A couple of crass jokes are kind of lame, but it looks great and has bits of colourful animated comedy. The word “Mania” in the title is fairly apt as it’s constantly manic which can be enjoyable or irritating.

Drac (Brian Hull) is the proprietor of Hotel Transylvania and is planning to retire and give the hotel to his vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and also, begrudgingly, her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg). But Drac gets cold feet and makes up an excuse to Johnny that only monsters can inherit the property. So Johnny gets a shape changing transformation ray from Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) which turns Johnny into a giant dragon, much to his joy. And, much to Drac’s dismay, it turns the vampire into a human. Drac’s monster buddies, werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), invisible man Griffin (David Spade), Murray the mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Frank the Frankenstein (Brad Abrell) and Blobby the Blob, are also accidentally turned into humans (or, in Blobby’s case, a plate of gelatin).  Now Johnny and Drac have to venture to South America to find a magic crystal to fix the ray while Mavis, Drac’s girlfriend Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn), and the rest go help them. But the monster version of Johnny may turn out to be more dangerous than anyone expects.
This is the first Hotel Transylvania movie without Adam Sandler voicing Drac, although one wouldn’t know it because Hull does an impeccable job repeating the same cadence and vocal delivery as Sandler. The other non-returning Sandler buddy is Kevin James as Frank, instead his voice is done by Abrell. He doesn’t really try to sound much like James but it doesn’t really matter as Frank is sparsely used. Two returning Sandler buddies are Buscemi and Spade who are rather chipper in their moments, although it is odd to have only two of Sandler’s crew reprise their roles without him. Drac’s buddies are much more sidelined in this one as they get turned into humans and are basically used in interchangeable random sight gags. Still the scene when they get turned into humans has a couple of great surprises like how Frank is turned into a supermodel and immediately starts taking selfies. Turning Blobby into a plate of gelatin is a fun sight gag that works even if they literally do nothing.
The Helsing duo are also kind of sidelined. This is sort of a problem with this movie, characters barely get an introduction and the movie just assumes the audience knows their whole backstory as the cast of characters has gotten larger from so many movies. Van Helsing looks remarkably weird as he lives in a mechanical body, and he’s cast as the mad scientist gleefully turning Johnny into a monster. One of the movie’s better gags is when they test out the transformation ray on a literal guinea pig and becomes so unstable Van Helsing has basically set up trench warfare to stop it. Gaffagin as Van Helsing sounds loud and crazy for all of his lines. Hahn is such a diverse performer and she’s unfortunately mostly relegated to Drac’s girlfriend. But there is a fun scene when Mavis and Ericka are stuck fighting the monster Guinea pig and Mavis traps it in an intricate clockwork of pipes.

Mavis ends up being the hero of the film and Gomez has an energetic delivery. Sandberg’s outsized vocal performance totally fits the animation style. And Johnny gets to go through something close to resembling a character arc as realizes Drac has been lying about inheriting the hotel. When Johnny turns into a giant rampaging monster as opposed to the upbeat cheerful monster he originally is, it actually kind of works from a character perspective.
The animation is expressive and zany with gags within gags. Some of the jokes are a little easy, like Invisible Man turning into a naked human which isn’t as funny as the movie thinks. One great visual is when Johnny is trekking through the jungle at a zippy pace while Drac stumbles behind him as the days change and Johnny never breaks his stride. Another fun quick moment is when Drac misfires the transformation ray and zaps a bellhop zombie who revels for a few seconds he’s human again and then immediately gets bitten and turns back into a zombie. The pack of werewolf kids running around as a giant mass of yelping and crawling hyperactive werewolf toddlers is fairly amusing. The finale features Mavis trying to avoid being splashed by sunlight in a neat bit of high jumping action.
As far as entries into the series go, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is decent. It isn’t a classic but it is fun. The candy coloured zaniness can be a bit wearying but it is trying to entertain, and mostly succeeding.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
3 stars
Directors: Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon
Starring: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Brian Hull and Fran Drescher

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