The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

October 16, 2012

‘Hotel Transylvania’: Should you check in?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 — To begin with, Pixar is still king. “Hotel Transylvania” does not come close to the wonder, emotion and creativity of any of the films in the Pixar canon except maybe the two “Cars” films. But Pixar is a pretty high standard for this film from Sony Pictures Animation.

And speaking of Sony Pictures Animation, “Hotel” is not even their best work. After all, this is a company responsible for “Monster House” (an Oscar nominee), last year’s “Arthur Christ-mas” (which bombed at the box office but was listed by me as one of the five grand unseen movies of 2011), and this year’s “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” from the people who created “Wallace” and “Gro-mit.” All three of these films offer a great deal more for the viewer than “Hotel Transylvania” and they are available or are coming out in the next few weeks on DVD.

So how does “Hotel” match-up against a film of similar subject matter such as the animated “ParaNorman.” Both films deal with frightening creatures including zombies. Both films have lots of humor. But there is much more truth, wisdom, and originality in Norman’s story than I ever found at the “Hotel.”

And speaking of originality, as I watched “Hotel” with my children, I found myself thinking back to my own childhood. Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, the men responsible for such television Christmas classics as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,”  “The Little Drummer Boy” and “The Year Without Santa Claus” made a film back in 1967 entitled “Mad Monster Party.” I saw that film when I was a young child and have never forgotten it. When I found it on DVD a few years ago, I was glad to add it to our family’s collection. I cannot help but believe that film was an inspiration for “Hotel Transylvania,” even though their plots deviate greatly as each plays out.

Another memory from my children arose in my mind as I was watching the film. Some will remember the Saturday morning series in the early seventies called “Groovie Goolies.” It is hard to imagine that this series did not also offer inspiration to the filmmakers as they planned “Hotel.” In a way, I suppose I am grateful for all the fond memories this film resurrected in my head.

With all that said, the greatest strength of the film is the animation. Bright, colorful and often filling the screen, sometimes there was so much to see that is was hard to know where to focus one’s eyes. And that is a compliment to the animators for creating awe-inspiring big moments in the film. The animation was also brilliant in several of the action sequences that often drove the film’s pace.  

On the other hand, when the scenes were less crowded, and the film action slows, the film seems to drag. Almost all films need quieter moments. At the heart of this film is a story of a vampire father who is reluctant to give his 118-year-old daughter her freedom. There are heartfelt moments along the way and some work better than others. The lesser ones do more harm than good to the over success of the film. The same is true about the humor; some jokes work, others fall flat.

But what do I know. My children liked it a lot. “Hotel Transylvania” set the record for the largest September opening ever with $42.5 million. Surely some of those people liked it more than me. I am just saying, one can find a superior animated feature in theaters or on home video. Perhaps even check out the classic “Mad Monster Party!”   

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