Movie Review: Check out “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” — or check OUT of it

Adam Sandler’s gone, but “Hotel Transylvania,” the animated franchise that refuses to die, is back as “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” makes its debut as an Amazon Prime release.

Replacement voice Brian Hull so perfectly mimics Sandler’s take on the vampire’s vampire and Transvylvanian hotelier that I almost made a big boo-boo in the credits. I mean, same voice, same not-that-funny line readings? It’s uncanny.

“Transformania” is about a hotel and its staff going through a transition. No, not THAT kind of transition. Drac is ready to hand over the keys to the monstrous hotel to his married adult daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez, a glutton for punishment) and her klutzy “human” husband Johnny (Andy Samberg, aka Sandler: The Next Generation.).

Except…Johnny’s an over-enthusiastic dunce and “the greatest headache in my existence.” Drac tries to back out of the hand-over, to take place at the hotel’s 125th anniversary. He convinces Johnny there’s a Transylvanian real estate law that prohibits “human” ownership.

Luckily, downcast Johnny has an out. The half-robotic dwarf vampire hunter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) has this new “monster transforming ray” gun. Johnny gets turned into a non-human, a dragon.

When Drac realizes Mavis will discover his lie if she sees Johnny, he tries to undo the transformation, and finds himself turned into a human. That’s when the magic “crystal” that makes the gun work breaks.

And that’s how the “father and son (in-law) bonding” trek to South America to find a fresh rock is launched.

Of course Mavis and Drac’s squeeze, Van Helsing’s daughter Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) find out and set out in pursuit of the two. They bring the also-converted-to-humans monstrous hotel staff (Keegan-Michael Key, David Spade, Brad Abrell and Steve Buscemi) and assorted spouses (Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher) along.

What could go wrong? Or right?

The jokes are of the “mosquitoes, the VAMPIRES of the jungle,” “I RESEMBLE that remark” variety. Sun-shy Dracula finally enjoys sunlight, only to over-indulge — “My EYES, my EYES!” He deadpans “Where am I goink to find a shower een the meedle of the JUNGLE?” Instant tropical downpour.

The Sony Animation house style for these films is whiplash-quick actions and over-reactions, in-your-face Tex Avery manic mugging. That covers up some of the tedium of the story, the drabness of the dialogue, but not nearly enough.

The best laughs here come from the transformed blob, Frank(enstein’s monster) waiter, Invisible Man (Spade) and Wolf Man (Buscemi) and Mummy (Key) turning human.

Think what the Invisible Man doesn’t put on to keep himself invisible. Clothes. Yes, there are big’ol butt-crack gags aplenty.

The film carries a cute message that people are like “a toasted marshmallow,” burnt and icky if just judge just what’s on the outside, but delightful and delicious if you consider the inside, too. But that and a couple of laughs are its sole saving graces.

After four films and a TV series, maybe it’s time to mothball this Hotel for a bit.

Rating: PG for some action and rude humor including cartoon nudity.

Cast: The voices of Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Brian Hull, Fran Drescher, Keegan Michael Key, David Spade, Jim Gaffigan, Kathryn Hahn and Steve Buscemi

Credits: Directed by Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska, scripted by Amos Vernon, Nunzio Radazzo and Genndy Tartakovsky. A Sony Animation release on Amazon.

Running time: 1:38

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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