1895, and one night in Transylvania there's a bat flying towards this balcony which by some sinister magic transforms into a tall, caped figure. He opens the windows and steps into the room, stalks up to the bed and cries "Peek-a-boo!" at the baby lying there. This is Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) who is entertaining his infant daughter Mavis, the only thing he has to remember his wife by since the local humans put paid to their happiness. Dracula is so obsessed that his offspring should be kept safe from the harsh realities of the world that he brings her up in isolation in his castle, but when she turns 118 (now voiced by Selena Gomez) she yearns to leave...
Adam Sandler's previous animated movie had been Eight Crazy Nights, an attempt to make a Jewish seasonal cartoon that somehow became best remembered for shit-licking reindeer rather than any heartwarming or even amusing results. Therefore for his second effort in this vein, and following a run of live action big screen comedies which had been received about as well as, er, a shit-licking reindeer, was not too well regarded by the critics nor many audiences who expected the same old same old ego-driven list of crass gags from the comic leading man. That it emerged at Halloween 2012, when there were two other animated efforts seeking to set the box office tills a-ringing, compounded the middling reception.
Yet while it didn't match the stop motion antics of Frankenweenie or ParaNorman for artistry, there were quite a few voices of dissent who refused to tow the line that many had agreed upon: Hotel Transylvania really wasn't so bad. In fact, it was rather good, maybe not a classic but for a computer animated variation on Mad Monster Party? from nearly fifty years before, you could do a lot worse. This was not so much down to the star's work, which was fine but nothing brilliant though the Sandlerisms showed through at various points, but more down to the director, Genndy Tartakovsky whose television cartoons were semi-legendary in their invention.
Thus the style and pace was at breakneck speed, much as an episode of, say, The Powerpuff Girls had been, and contained the same irreverence in its humour. This was no respectful tribute to the classic monster movies such as Tim Burton might have fashioned, it was more brash, colourful and silly, with every creature offered their own schticky voiceover from a name actor or actress, usually a comedian in some capacity though somehow singer CeeLo Green got to perform as The Mummy and did not embarrass himself, to be fair. Nobody did here, with everyone apart from Sandler not even attempting an accent (OK, Jon Lovitz was a French chef Quasimodo) other than their own, which rendered the characters more Hollywood-friendly and mainstream.
As far as that went, hearing the distinctive tones of Steve Buscemi as a long-suffering Wolfman with too many pups, none of whom pay him the slightest notice, was a neat gag, and that translated into some nice one-liners mixed with a frantic physicality to the monsters. Except, of course, they don't see themselves as monsters for to them the people are the true barbaric beasts, leading to an interesting theme about racism none too concealed in a love story across the species when vampire Mavis falls for a human in the shape of inquisitive backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg). He stumbles upon the hotel of the title where Drac arranges danger-free holidays for his vast array of grotesque friends and through various convolutions has to pretend to be the cousin of Frankenstein's Monster (Kevin James) while shaking up the Count's boring ideas of fun. Behind this madcap scattershot of jokes was a sweet plea for tolerance, but the director's anarchic sense of mayhem made this an improvement on The Groovy Goolies (yes, they sing too). Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.