Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania: Third Sequel Delivers More of the Same Except Different

In the beginning, there was Hotel Transylvania—a 2012 all-ages animated action-comedy that made serious bank for Sony Animation and gave animation legend Genndy Tartakovsky (Star Wars: Clone Wars, Dexter’s Laboratory) a big-screen franchise to call his own. Preteen audiences responded favourably to the goofball charms of its neutered Universal-inspired monsters at the centre of the series and its deliberately inoffensive pro-tolerance, pro-diversity message. The inevitable, aptly-titled sequel, Hotel Transylvania 2, followed three years later, as did a second sequel, Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation in 2018, along with a tangentially-related foray into comics, an animated series, shorts, and even video games. The fourth entry, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, arrives these many years later, bypassing theatrical and heading straight to Amazon Prime Video.

Transformania picks up more or less where the previous film ended, with the centuries-old Dracula (Brian Hull, ably stepping in for Adam Sandler), a successful hotelier to all manner of supernatural monsters, contemplating retirement and domestic bliss with Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the great-granddaughter of onetime Dracula nemesis-turned-ally, Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). Like all parents with a sizeable fortune and/or real-estate holdings, Dracula envisions daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) as his heir apparent. Unfortunately for Dracula, he’s never quite outgrown his distaste for Mavis’s human husband, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), and his hippy-dippy, granola-eating, environmentally conscious ways. This leaves Dracula to make an inopportune decision at the last possible moment, lying to Jonathan about who can inherit the hotel (monsters) and who can’t (humans).

That subterfuge leads Jonathan to seek Van Helsing’s help. With his vampire-hunting days behind him and his body replaced with mechanical parts, Van Helsing has turned into the proverbial mad scientist, offering Jonathan a quick fix, a “Monsterification Ray” that will transform Jonathan into a monster and thus make him worthy of Dracula’s acceptance and/or love. The ray works, but once Dracula confronts a newly monstrous Jonathan, he sees the errors of his short-sighted ways. Before he can change Jonathan back to the annoying, frustrating human he calls a son-in-law, the ray works its crystalline magic on Dracula, removing all of his vampiric powers and making him susceptible to the frailties of owning and operating a human body (e.g., diet, sunlight, bug bites).

While Hotel Transylvania: Transformania starts off somewhat strongly—with an energetically, elegantly designed sequence involving Dracula’s big decision and a celebration of the hotel’s 125th anniversary—it quickly devolves into a slog, substituting the gag-filled humour of the opening minutes and much of the series for haphazard jokes primarily centred on Dracula’s newfound humanness. The jokes at Dracula’s (and, by extension, our) expense becoming tedious and tiresome in their repetition, a sure sign that the series has overreached its natural end.

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To keep the series continuity going for another entry, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania also flips the Freaky Friday-inspired script on Dracula’s usual assortment of supporting players. They get a literal taste of the Monsterification Ray, transforming from monster to human. Tartakovsky and his collaborators, the co-directing team of Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska and a writing trio that includes Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo (along with Tartakovsky), fail to take the joke beyond the painfully obvious or the oddly ageist (e.g., Frankenstein becomes incredibly vain, the Mummy discovers the non-pleasures involved with aging, sagging flesh, the Invisible Man/Griffin refuses to wear clothing).

Still, for all of its story-, character-, and/or -dialogue-based issues (and to be honest, they’re plentiful), the film at least has some terrific animation. Heavily influenced by classic cartoon-inspired aesthetics, the deliberately exaggerated, non-realistic, rubbery characters in Hotel Transylvania: Transformania don’t so much walk as slink, bounce, or jump from one spot to another. Dracula’s movements reflect traditional cel animation’s reliance on stretching and compressing to convey character and narrative. In that much at least, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania delivers engaging visuals strong enough to keep even the most easily distracted pre-teens occupied during its relatively brief runtime.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now.

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