Sandler’s ‘Hotel’ earns its ‘no vacancy’ sign

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceSeptember 28, 2012 

  • REVIEW Hotel Transylvania * 1/2 STARS: The voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, CeeLo Green, David Spade. DIRECTOR: Genndy Tartakovsky WRITERS: Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, story by Todd Durham, Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman. RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes. RATING: PG (some rude humor, action and scary images).

Welcome to the “Hotel Transylvania,” where you can check out any time you like, but you will never laugh.

With apologies to The Eagles, “almost never.”

Sony Animation got into the Adam Sandler business this time out. The “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” folks must never have seen “Eight Crazy Nights,” Sandler’s first effort at turning his “gift” for funny voices into a cartoon.

It’s a good-looking, laugh-starved farce that puts Dracula (Sandler) in charge of a hotel for monsters – “Human-free since 1895” – and makes him an overprotective single father with a teenage daughter (Selena Gomez).

Drac dotes on Mavis, calling her ghoulish pet-names – “My honey guts … Sweet fangs ...”

She’s turning 118, and is ready to see the world. But all Daddy Drac can think to do is stage a “visit” to the human village, where they all want to “eat your toes” and “shove garlic in your face.”

So a birthday party at home it is – home being the hotel with its headless doorman, witches for housekeepers and skeletal staff (literally).

Continental breakfast? A bagel with “scream cheese,” of course.

Monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James), The Mummy (CeeLo Green) and The Invisible Man (David Spade) are honored guests.

But darned if nerdy human hiker Jonathan (Andy Samberg) doesn’t stumble in and make Mavis go “zing,” as in “zing zing zing went my heartstrings.” So Daddy has a problem – how to frighten the boy into skee-daddling.

The movie – from “Clone Wars” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” TV vet Genndy Tartakovsky – has a generous helping of sight gags – zombie construction workers who whistle at whatever corpse floats by, Steve Buscemi’s hang-dog werewolf with his vast brood of unruly pups, a cadaverous house mariachi band, Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) as a chef with a rat pal (a “Ratatouille” joke).

The grossest thing in a hotel that has The Blog, Bigfoot and zombies staying in it? A human fiddling with the contact lens on his eyeball. Eyewwwwww.

The best gags come from quick cuts – Drac zipping hither and thither to keep Mavis fooled, his sudden and shocking transitions to SCARY. The rest of what is most decidedly a “boys” comedy is humor of the fart/ butt/ toilet variety, PG-rated stuff Sandler and his cronies would reject from his “Grown Ups”/“Zookeeper”/“That’s My Boy” screenplays.

Sandler’s Dracula voice isn’t awful. Nor is it distinct or funny, and he is given precious little funny to say. This “Hotel” was never going to earn a 4-star rating. But maybe under different management …

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