Released: 14th January
Seen: 14th January
Hotel Transylvania has never exactly been the most memorable franchise. It exists and does its job as a piece of family-friendly entertainment but it’s not a film series that really seems to get much discussion surrounding it, despite them being pretty big hits at the box office. The first three films were fairly huge box office hits and you would have expected that for the 4th entry but nope, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania got thrown on Prime Video to open up 2022. Allegedly this is the final entry in the franchise and to be honest, I can see why since it’s definitely run out of juice at this point.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania opens at Dracula’s (Brian Hull) anniversary party where he plans on giving his hotel to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg). Johnny overhears this plan and reacts in a manner so hyperactive and odd that Dracula decides not to go through with the plan and tells Johnny that he can’t give the hotel to them because Johnny isn’t a monster and there are special laws surrounding monster real estate (this is a lie, the entire plot revolves around this lie).
Forlorn, Johnny goes to visit the mad scientist Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and learns that the professor has made a special ray that can turn people into monsters. Johnny uses it on himself and then it somehow gets used on Drac (and a couple of his friends because we need a B plot), turning him into a human before using all the energy this device had. Naturally being a human is a problem for Dracula and he needs to; be turned back so he and Johnny go on a quest to find special crystals that can power the special monster ray…. And they have to get it done before Johnny’s monsterification goes haywire.
Much like the films before it, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is broad and colourful and as over the top as it can be. People don’t just walk places, they zip around in poses that play up the cartoony aspect. There’s a lot of fun being had with the visuals, it’s never going to go for subtlety because that’s boring. It’s more fun to have the characters just float about in silly exaggerated poses than to worry about things like character beats or story. Visually, this film is genuinely a joy to look at… it’s just not that engaging.
I’ll be honest here, I almost lost interest in Hotel Transylvania: Transformania because the story is so overdone and uninteresting. Dracula lies, he and Johnny go to find the thing, shenanigans that aren’t funny ensue and roll credits. It was just unfunny visual gag after unfunny visual gag that went nowhere. There’s maybe one moment where our two lead characters had something resembling an interesting moment, namely when Johnny calls out Drac’s pessimism, but other than that it all just kind of washes over the audience. It’s just not exciting or fun and the few funny visuals can’t salvage it.
The B plot of Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, namely when all of Drac’s friends also turn human, is just kind of there with minimal fuss. It’s not like they’re doing wacky things that explore how these characters might react to suddenly being human again (the only real jokes are that the blob is actually a plate of Jello and that the Invisible Man was naked the entire time) but mostly their plot is “Don’t tell Mavis about this huge issue until the start of act 3 because we need a climax” and that’s all they do. It’s annoying cos there are so many talented funny people here that could be delivering some good comedy and they just don’t have anything that fun to say… which is relateable since I honestly don’t have that much to say about this film!
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania really just suffers from a lack of care, you can almost feel how this was pushed through production to make money. You almost guessed they just wanted it done when Adam Sandler didn’t come back to reprise his role as Dracula. The director of the first three movies also didn’t come back, and you can kinda feel it in how there’s just some spark missing. It just doesn’t work as well as it could, and we’ve seen it work fairly well before but just not here.
I’m not saying Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is horrible, but it’s so average that it honestly might have been better if it was horrible. The animation is fine, bright and colourful enough to distract almost any baby put in front of it for an hour and a half but the chances of it producing a single laugh from something said is minimal at best. It’s a film going on fumes, pushing out another entry in hopes of giving Sony a decent box office… and they sold it to Prime where it’s going to just sit doing nothing because it hasn’t got much to really offer. It’s fine if you have nothing else to show your kids, but there is always going to be something better available.