I have to tell you, Disney has a way with movies, especially children’s movies and animation. It is nice to see others like Sony Pictures starting to do the same. While their newest release Hotel Transylvania isn’t what one would consider a classic, it is a very good animated movie that is both enjoyable and entertaining. While I saw this in Real D 3D as opposed to the 3D with the glasses, I still had a good time and the visual and sound aspects were quite good. This October, during the month of Halloween, some classic characters from horror will bring a new taste to the treats of the season. There is no trick here; in Hotel Transylvania, we have a treat that emphasizes family and community and as a result, families will see old horror characters in a new way, one that illustrates that despite our differences, we can, and should, come together.
Hotel Transylvania is the story of a single father, Dracula (played actually quite well by Adam Sandler), who has lost his wife to humans. He now lives in Transylvania with his daughter Mavis, played innocently enough by Selena Gomez. In his heartache and determination to protect his daughter, Dracula builds a Hotel where all of their friends’ needs will be met without ever having to venture around humans. Mavis is turning 118 years of age and entering into adulthood, or would that be monsterhood? Numerous guests arrive, as Dracula kicks off the grand-opening of the hotel with a birthday party for Mavis. Everyone from The Abominable Snowman, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Blob, and many others, arrives to celebrate. Also appearing, quite by accident, is a young human (humans are feared among the monster kingdom for their treatment of monsters in the past) named Jonathan. Jonathan and Mavis meet up and a Romeo and Juliet themed plot advances. Forbidden love is mixed in with quite a few laughs and some surprisingly scary moments for a contemporary animated film. Some moments, in fact, that had me feeling better about not taking my two-year-old granddaughter to the advance screening I attended. The story is an enjoyable, if not predictable one that picks up quite nicely.
There is quality stamped all over this film, from the acting to sound and from the visual 3-D effects to the quality of story. There is a surprising cast that not only includes those already mentioned but the likes of Kevin James as Frankenstein, Fran Drescher as Eunice, one of my favorites, Steve Buscemi, and others like CeeLo Green, David Spade, and Jon Lovitz. There is little doubt the cast had fun making this movie and they wanted to do something for their children. This is especially true in the case of Adam Sandler who uses two of his own children as voice actors. One can rest assured, this will be an entertaining evening if taking your family to the movies.
In Hotel Transylvania we see an advancement of character in Adam Sandler’s Dracula, partially because of the quality of animation. Sandler is not known as the most remarkable actor in the business but he can tell a good story, and as indicated in his contributions to other films, he can also have fun with his voice. Fortunately, the animation captures emotions in his character that I am not sure could be caught from his own natural appearance. We see his character grow in regard to his opinion of humans and his relationship with his daughter. It isn’t just his character we see something in though; we also see it in Mavis and Jonathan. We see a love blossom that transcends animation; it moves to tell us something about ourselves as humans and the role some of us have taken on as parents.
There is a strong story concept in Hotel Transylvania that would be wonderful for us to explore ourselves, as adults, but also to explore with our children. Too often, individuals have a bias towards others that is rooted in hatred, prejudice, and misperception or stereotype. We can see this now especially in politics and religion, or during election cycles. It doesn’t take long for those involved in social media such as facebook to see these things. Old friends take on bitter roles, opinions are based on party allegiances, and long lasting relationships can be ruined. One has to wonder what small children learn when watching their parents behave in such a way. Whether or not we are parents ourselves, as a society we have to have some level of concern for the perspectives presented. It is common for children to go through a stage of rebellion against the things that they observe in their parents and other adults in society. We certainly see that in the film, and it gives some measure of hope. It is possible that in areas where we as parents and/or adults have blown it, a small child can relearn or learn for the very first time something of value, such as the way to treat others, to love anew, and to throw away the prejudices and hatred of the past. It is here that Hotel Transylvania shines. We don’t just see the ability of a child, even an adult child, to change; we see that the opinions, attitudes, and actions of adults can change.
Another beautiful byproduct of this story is the willingness of a father to recognize his own wrongs and failures and be a big enough human (or vampire in this case) to change and do what is right. Dracula is, at least in this film, a role model for adults. Are we as adults willing to recognize our own sins, prejudices, stereotypes, hatred if you will, and change to establish a better model for the children of this world, or as some would say, this planet’s future? When we are willing to make that change, we will see evidence that things aren’t always as we thought and of the potential of a mighty powerful word, the four letter word, HOPE. It is with the potential of hope that things can change, but all parties have to be willing to address the need for change, specifically in how we see each other. In Hotel Transylvania we see the potential of hope fulfilled in a powerful way by the goodness of humans. While humans at one time were afraid of certain things, to the extent of doing harm and killing monsters, we see their ability to change. I can’t help but believe there are strong moral and spiritual messages for us seeing this movie. Just as a pastor or speaker may deliver an eloquent sermon that inspires change, Sony Pictures through the message of Hotel Transylvania does the same thing.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Hotel Transylvania is not a classic by any measure, but it is very good with some exceptional lessons in it for all of us. There is a lackluster opening and closing credit sequence and the plot could have been a little tighter. The film drags a little in the first twenty minutes or so but picks up and becomes quite good towards the end. I seldom talk about the appropriate content of a film, but in this case I will say that very small children may experience some scary moments. I couldn’t recommend it for them. I certainly think it is well worth the price of a regular admission ticket, and if taking a family, to save a few bucks certainly a matinee. I think the real D 3D is quite good and don’t think the extra price for a regular 3D ticket is necessary. All that said, on a scale of 1-10, for the better than average family experience, a worthwhile 7.
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