“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” proves yet again the durability and well-crafted nature of Sony’s animated monster-adventure comedies. According to the company, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”It will be the fourth and last movie in the family-friendly fantasy series. It’s also the first “Hotel Transylvania”Genndy Tartakovsky to direct movie“Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack”) — Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska take the reins — though Tartakovsky has a story and a co-writer credit (along with Nunzio Randazzo and Amos Vernon).
Tartakovsky and his co-creators’ knack for visual gags and their love of cartoon physics distinguish the “Hotel Transylvania” movies, which perennially follow the goofy and over-protective Count Dracula (previously voiced by Adam Sandler, now Brian Hull) as he and his monster buddies struggle to accept Drac’s hippie-ish human son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg). While “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” pilfers the same graveyard that spawned the previous three entries, it’s still a perfectly enjoyable rehash of those earlier movies’ successes.
“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” starts with a sappy affirmation of the series’ domestic focus — a wistful Drac slow-dances with his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) to a slightly modified version of “Just the Two of Us” — but soon becomes a showcase for monster gags and the series’ celebrity voice-actor cast.
Dracula and his followers made a series of implausible and eventually negligible mistakes. “Drac Pack”A magical whatsit transforms friends Murray the Mummy (Kegan-Michael Key), and Wayne the Werewolf, (Steve Buscemi) into unhappy people. A typically klutzy but eager Johnny tries to win over his father-in-law by transforming into a goofy-looking dragon and leading an expedition to remote South America, home of the only known cure for Dracula’s and Johnny’s respective transformations. The two are followed and inevitably joined by the rest of the Drac Pack, led by Mavis and by Dracula’s doting monster-hunter wife Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn).
As in the movies before, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”It flows by without focusing on its main theme of accepting your family as they are. This movie is different from the previous movies. “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”Ericka (Jim Gaffigan) has many side characters that animated series creators would not know what to do, especially Ericka’s cranky great-grandfather Van Helsing. Thankfully, the Drac Pack never really gets in the way of Dracula and Johnny’s amusing South American jungle adventure.
They also don’t really advance the plot since they’re only kinda uncomfortable with their newfound human attributes. Wayne’s considerable brood of werewolf puppies don’t recognize their dad as a human, while Griffin the invisible man (David Spade) has an unsightly body and a very pale behind. Frankenstein (Brad Abrell taking over Kevin James) loves being human. His wife Eunice Fran Drescher, however, prefers the old Frank.
A similarly low-stakes tension motivates Johnny and Drac’s quest to restore the franchise’s status quo: Dracula tries and often fails to get along with Johnny, despite Johnny’s best efforts. Hull only mimics Sandler’s version of the character (very Borscht-belt-meets-baby-talk) and Samberg has already been and done what’s expected of him here, but their characters mostly work anyway, if only as props for composed and well-paced cartoon slapstick. Younger viewers will probably enjoy watching a human Dracula (with a beer gut, thinning hair and a floppy sun hat) get eaten alive by piranha and mosquitos; adults will hopefully be entertained by the snappy timing of the gags as well as the various characters’ expressive facial tics and body language.
The “Hotel Transylvania”While movies may not be well-crafted comedies, they are clearly made in skilled and committed craftsmen. These men, through whatever chance of circumstance, were allowed to inject just enough personality into the latest computer-generated animated series. While many of the jokes in these movies are funny, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” probably won’t linger in your mind, they are still fairly well-executed.
The “Hotel Transylvania” movies don’t chase after the trends set by more prominent or celebrated animation studios who shall remain nameless, but rather settle for the sort of dopey shenanigans that you might hope for — or at least expect — from a bunch of kids’ movies about a family of monsters. Animation fans can read into Tartakovsky and his team’s clever, winking jokes, and viewers of all ages will appreciate how zippy and energetic this latest movie tends to be, despite its non-existent plot.
The makers of “Transformania”You can succeed where other sequels have failed by simply focusing on the setup and execution of some simple, silly gags like Dracula being attacked and pooped upon by birds of heaven or Johnny punching holes in the sides a slow-moving tour bus and galloping around South America like a strange hybrid of Fred Flintstone. Trogdor is the Burninator. Simple pleasures that are merely incidental “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” can probably still be appreciated at home and don’t really need to be hyped up beyond noting that what wasn’t already broken in the previous “Hotel Transylvania”Movies still work in this fourth, and possibly final chapter.
“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”Premieres January 14th on Prime Video