When we trekked down to The Cathay for the gala premiere of Hotel Transylvania, we were in expecting a mundane animated flick containing the cheesy sequences we have all come to remember like clockwork — laughs for the kids with some poke-here-poke-there physical comedy, crazy camera pans as characters traipse lengths or cavernous spaces seemingly impossible to cover in five seconds and who, I tell you, who on Earth can forget the solitary moment when the lead character lets go of his goofy/weird/demented self to do some reflection and realise that the world is some phantasmagorical place of discovery and wonder and all that jazz?

(Pass me the Kleenex. My cynical self needs a break.)

Skeleton

Well, we won’t lie and tell you Hotel Transylvania had nothing of that sort. This being a Disney flick, the movie did do justice to some great animated work but there were some questionable “animation flick” type of moments (see above). Cue in the preachy tone with lessons in being steadfast, falling in love and cherishing family over freedom and it does seem like a near disaster for the film. In the end though, brilliant comic-timing moments, witty references and a fast-paced saved the movie from being one just solely for the kids. This was a flick that had the laughs that will literally make you LOL, then wonder why you LOL-ed

Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg star in this flick as well as That’s My Boy, which was scrapped from release in Singapore at the very last minute according to insider sources who have told Popspoken exclusively. In That’s My Boy, Samberg plays good and Sandler plays bad but the roles are reversed for this one as Sandler plays hotel owner and father worrywart Dracula while Samberg plays the American teenage doofus that is Jonathan. The energy between both characters is undeniably strong as they exchange split-second banter and feed off each other’s lines well. At times, the animation does aid in h banter — a particular scene has both characters walking out of a secret “dark room” laughing to each other’s jokes. However, there is a terrible lack of gesticulation which is odd given the human (ad non-human) penchant for speaking with our hands.

dracula

Dracula is, well, Dracula. The Italian-speaking overlord sets up a hotel to protect all sorts of monsters from the human world and employs rather disturbing ways to protect her daughter from venturing into the outside world. One of those tactics involves setting up a fake human town where “humans” (monsters employed by Dracula to dress up in human costumes) wield pitchforks and torches to exterminate his daughter in some terrible but miraculously watchable rip-off of 28 Days Later/The Walking Dead/your choice of creepy zombie movie. Imagine your typical straight-laced dad, just now with fangs, an Italian accent and a cape. There. Dracula references to the human world a tad too much, which is totally unrealistic given his back story, but we’ll take the Twilight jokes as they come. Adam Sandler voices the character well but lets loose on a quasi-American accent once in a while (boooooo) which I’ll explain a few paragraphs down.

Jonathan

Everything runs well in the hotel until Jonathan shows up because hey, a dumb boy can find a hotel hideout by following random traces of movement and scenery, right? Within five seconds, this dude comes across a total brainfart and we suspect the film manages to be kid-friendly because the writers are hiding Jonathan’s stash of marijuana in his backpack. Anyhow, Jonathan is your classic nutcase: really stoned, speaks in a monotonous dude-like accent and always game for an ‘adventure’ or two. While it is unfair to see how Samberg may have done a Jonathan-like character on Saturday Night Live, I cannot help but make the comparison every single time because of Samberg’s ways in The Lonely Boys. Either way, Jonathan delivers some brilliant unintentional humour but the animators need to quit it with the character’s one-second-too-late moves which spoil the snappiness of the dialogue.

In a scene where Dracula and Jonathan play a very confusing game of floating-tables-trying-to-occupy-ballroom-floor-spaces-much-like-chess, the banter is freeflowing and the retorts are apt in a typical father-son sort of way. The jokes get stretched a bit too much though, especially when Dracula says “whatever” in the most unconvincing quasi-American accent I have ever heard from a dracula. Seriously, an American playing an Italian character who tries to speak an American slang in its well-known tone is three clauses too much for me to handle. (Crazy-ass hyphenation in this paragraph’s first sentence sold separately.)

Mavis

And then there’s good ol’ Mavis (played by Selena Gomez). The vampire daughter who is all grown up, Americanised and wants to break free from the family. (Where have we seen that before?) She’s dressed in H2T black. (Where have we also seen that before?) Actually, she does remind us of Selena Gomez because she is Selena Gomez. There is never a concerted moment where Selena tries to differentiate herself from Mavis, which is just as well considering that could have been the exact reason why she was casted for the role.

Another head-scratching scene is where Jonathan shares some real human moments with Mavis, like as if some magical spell casted away his perpetual stoned face for a few seconds. A scene where Mavis deliberates the joys of the sun with Jonathan on the rooftop turns so emo that you will beg for the next punchline after five sentences into this scene. Another scene when a mock-angry Jonathan, abetted by Dracula’s directives, blasts Mavis for not being his true love is also way too realistic to accept for a character that has been heavily stereotyped from the get-go. Mavis’ hot-headed self also disappears slightly in confrontational moments like this, which is perplexing given Selena Gomez can easily snap Justin Bieber’s head off.

Monsters

When the wit flows though, it turns into comedic gold. A scene where the hotel’s monsters advise Mavis on how to protect herself in the real world brings up snigger-worthy directives like hiding in the dark, squatting on tree branches to avoid visibility and only having split-second brushes of human contact. (Okay, we made that last one up… but it’s so true!) A few scenes where a skeleton couple are offended by Jonathan staring at the wife’s, erm, assets(?) and Frankenstein has those a-ha moments where everything in his brain makes sense string up the laugh-a-minute quotient. You will get the laughter payoff, so when it comes, do yourself a favour and laugh along with it, will you? Goddamnit.

For a flick that garnered a Golden Globes nomination for Best Animated Feature film (yay!), we’ll give Hotel Transylvania a stab in the dark. Expect not to think so much, but just to go along the ride. Bleh-bleh-bleh.

Hotel Transylvania is out in theatres now.

Photos: Disney