A version of this review appeared in The Age, September 27, 2012.
A family-friendly digital cartoon with Adam Sandler as the voice of Dracula sounds scary in all the wrong ways. In fact, Hotel Transylvania is one of Sandler's more endearing films – and perhaps his most Jewish venture since Don't Mess With The Zohan (2008). Far from a bloodsucking villain, the Dracula we meet here is a kind-hearted mensch oppressed by human prejudice against the undead. For the past century, his castle-cum-resort has offered a haven where monsters of all kinds can peacefully follow their ancient customs, which include playing bingo with skulls, eating foods such as “scream cheese,” and indulging in bouts of self-dismemberment.
Somehow all this isn't enough for Drac's daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), who's about to turn 118, making her a young adult in vampire terms. Curious about the wider world, she's especially intrigued by the latest arrival at the castle – a young backpacker named Johnny (Andy Samberg) who looks like a Dr Seuss character, talks like a California stoner and displays a goofy but not wholly foolish ability to go with the flow. Mavis is quickly won over by Johnny's traveller's tales and sense of fun, little realising that under his green facepaint her idol is (gasp) a mere human. Will Drac overcome his fears and allow his only child to find love outside the clan?
There's nothing even slightly original about a project that combines the spirit of the old Abbott and Costello horror-comedies with a touch of Fiddler on the Roof. Still, as children's entertainment Hotel Transylvania succeeds where the recent A Monster in Paris failed; the director Genndy Tartakovsky – creator of cult TV shows such as Samurai Jack – understands the importance of keeping energy levels high. The supernatural transformations and Borscht Belt wisecracks rarely let up, and the imaginary camera is in constant motion, rocketing down the castle corridors or darting between the hyperactive guests.