[Movie Review] HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA
Courtesy Prime Video
For the unfamiliar, Hotel Transylvania is an animated franchise following “Drac” (voiced initially by Adam Sandler), the proprietor of a hotel for monsters, and his journey to accepting his vampire daughter “Mavis” (Selena Gomez) as an adult and wife to human “Johnny” (Andy Sandberg) with the clueless support of their monster friends. The fourth installment, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA, finds “Drac” with a quandary. Does he retire and leave the hotel to his daughter “Mavis”? Or is the prospect of her human husband  Johnny also owning the hotel just too hard to accept? After a Freaky Friday mix-up via one of  “Van Helsing’s” (Jim Gaffigan) many experimental ray guns, “Drac” and “Johnny” switch as \ monster and human, and embark on an adventure of personal growth, family blending, and pop hit dance breaks.

An honest review of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA is just unfair. This franchise falls into a genre of animated films that work through the “jukebox” musical atmosphere and whose purpose is purely child entertainment (and quick paydays for the actors). While the first two installments are more focused and a little more clever, the entire franchise as a whole depends on silly jokes,  sound bites, bright colors, and pop hits from five years before the film premiered. That’s not a dig, it is what it is. What really sets TRANSFORMANIA apart from its predecessors is one thing: Adam Sandler did not come back to voice “Drac”.

Sandler declining to return to voice “Drac” AND to act as a producer has been in the news cycle in regards to HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA more than the film’s pushed back premiere date. Brian Hull, a YouTuber made famous by his impersonations of Disney characters, and who voiced “Drac” in the short Monster Pets, took over the role. Hull was fine, and the gig is less sounding like Adam Sandler and more sounding like Sandler doing a  Dracula impression. Besides, with every installment, the number of lines a character has shrinks leaving way for more dance breaks and top hits scored hijinks. Which begs the question… what was Adam Sandler doing that he couldn’t take a multi-million-dollar check to record maybe twenty lines?

Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Frank (Brad Abrell) Monster Johnny (Andy Samberg), Murray (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wayne (Steve Buscemi) in Columbia Pictures’ HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA.

After all, with a cast list including David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Kevin  James (in the first, sequel, and third installment, taken over by Brad Abrell), Molly Shannon,  Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan, and Kathryn Hahn, it’s easy to forget Hotel Transylvania isn’t an official Happy Madison Production, (meaning it’s not part of the theorized “Sandlerverse” that links most Happy Madison Productions together). Announced in April of 2021, there’s been no official word as to why Sandler dropped but speculation often points to his January 2020 $275 million Netflix deal and other slated projects. Kevin James also not reprising the role of  Frank supports this theory as he was in production for the Happy Madison Production’s film, Home State.

However, it’s possible that Sandler bailed out because he just wasn’t into the direction. From the first Hotel Transylvania to the third, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, the issue of  “Drac” accepting the human “Johnny” as a part of their life was resolved. While revisiting this plotline in the fourth installment (where “Johnny” questions whether “Drac” REALLY sees him as a member of the family) allows for a fun “walk a mile in my shoes” monster hike adventure,  as a result, there’s less vampire fun for “Drac” and a lot more “being human isn’t easy” gags.  And Sandler signed on to be Dracula, not someone’s dad in a button-up. Related, while the directing team of Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon (allegedly) stated hiring Brian Hull to voice “Drac” over Sandler was a choice to reflect “Drac” becoming a new character in the fourth installment….that’s hard to believe because it’s Adam Sandler.

Regardless and production gossip aside, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA delivers exactly what an audience would expect from a fourth animated sequel and exactly what parents at home need. A fun distraction.

Amazon Studios will release HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA on Prime Video globally on January 14, 2022.

CK Kimball
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