Wednesday 10 October 2012

Monster meh: "Hotel Transylvania"

Hotel Transylvania is Adam Sandler, the most needlessly hardworking man in showbiz, taking five minutes off from shooting Grown-Ups 2 (yes, it's a thing) to claim his share of the computer animation pie; anybody who remembers Sandler's less-than-happy animated-Hanukkah offering Eight Crazy Nights from 2002 will already doubtless be filling up with dread. Well, it's not that bad; persistently mediocre, maybe, with the odd lightning-flash of inspiration that throws the dross around it into further relief, and almost (but never quite) justifies the 3D ticket tax. It'll get a boost from being trailered before the superior ParaNorman, but Gothic-minded tweens would be best advised to hold out for next week's Frankenweenie, which offers a vision some way beyond Sandler's lazily generated dollar signs.

A large part of the annoyance here is that, in a crowded market, it doesn't even bother to go for a distinctive look. Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg), the goofy humanoid backpacker who stumbles into the foyer of the hotel Dracula (Sandler, with silly accent) has conceived as a monsters-only resort, has a resonant name in this context, but only the colour of his hair distinguishes him from Arthur Christmas, the young hero of Sony's previous animated release. Supporting monsters - a horned, light-furred monster; a French chef who communicates with a rat; a gelatinous blob - look like market stall knock-offs of characters originated in Pixar films and DreamWorks' zestier Monsters vs. Aliens

As in much of Sandler's recent output, there are isolated pockets of amusement, wherein the business mind that now parses these scripts is momentarily overruled by surviving traces of a stand-up comic's nous: writers Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel have some fun with the hotel's itinerary, which takes in bingo games where carnivorous (and conspicuously Jewish) mom-monsters devour one another's cards before any claim can be validated, and there's a workable run of gags premised on the voice-casting of pop starlet Selena Gomez as Drac's 118-year-old offspring ("I'm not 83 any more...").

The songs, however, are almost unilaterally terrible: if it's not the greatest of ideas to make Cee Lo Green - purveyor of some of contemporary pop's most distinctive vocals, here giving life to an Egyptian mummy - sing through a Vocoder, I guess it beats having to listen to more LMFAO, who've rapidly come to replace the Black Eyed Peas as the house band of slovenly unambitious multiplex filler such as this. I'll grant that Hotel Transylvania's finale - which involves a vampire bat-vs.-commercial jetliner chase, and a neat Twilight put-down - is nicely done, but this was only ever intended as 3D product, so it generally prefers frenetic movement and so-so fart gags to wit and narrative ingenuity. Parents might want to offset the price of cinema tickets and snacks by buying shares in Ritalin.

Hotel Transylvania opens nationwide on Friday.

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