Young human intrudes on ghoulish elite
There's a nice, old-school Disneyesque moment in Hotel Transylvania, a merrily madcap computer-animated monster mashup about a high-end getaway for the likes of Frankenstein, the Mummy, Invisible Man, and lesser-known scary folk and their kin. The scene takes place in the titular hostelry's banquet hall, where Dracula (the Bela Lugosi'd voice of Adam Sandler) and a backpacking brat by the name of Jonathan (Andy Samberg) go whooshing around in the air on flying dinner tables. It's an exhilarating spin for the cartoon characters, and a bonding experience, too.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky, the creative force behind the nutty TV 'toons Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, zings things along in Hotel Transylvania (zing, in fact, becomes a pivotal word in the story line). From the prologue, set at the turn of the last century and explaining the origins of the Count's hotel - ringed by a vast cemetery and hundreds of acres of spooky forest, to protect its guests from human intruders - to the present day, when one such human, the aforementioned Jonathan, does indeed intrude, Hotel Transylvania ladles up the laughs. Some of the jokes, playing off old horror-movie conventions, fare better than others, but they keep coming, at a breakneck pace. (Beware the cheesy pun, though - as in "bagels and screamcheese.")
In addition to his role as hotelier to the ghoulish elite, Dracula is a dad. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), is coming of age, as in turning 118 ("old enough to drive a hearse"), and she wants to fly off (in her bat incarnation) to see the world, or at least a nearby town. But the vampire father, a widower, is reluctant to let his daughter go, so he stages a phony village uprising, like the folks who went after Frankenstein's monster, to scare Mavis into staying, and steering clear of humankind.
The plan works until Jonathan, an adventurous young dude, shows up at the front gate and locks eyeballs with Mavis. Now, Dracula has to hide the kid from his guests, lest they panic at the sight of a flesh-and-blood human. Plus, he has to keep Mavis away from Jonathan, too.
Despite the fact that it deploys lots of 3-D effects, Hotel Transylvania isn't especially eye-popping, animation-wise. And because of copyright issues, Wolfman, Quasimodo, and other familiar freaks of vintage scare fare have been reimagined in less distinctive ways. But there's enough here to entertain - and gross out - the kiddie crowd, and parental units, too.