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Robert Cartagena is a boxing correspondent for SFBay.ca. He graduated from SF State in 2011 with a B.A. in journalism and spent more than a year contributing monthly articles to The Hudsucker, an online magazine with a blog twist. He has a passion for sports journalism -- particularly boxing -- as well as film reviews. He also enjoys blogging and aspires to be a professional actor one day.

Monsters Charm and Check Into “Hotel Transylvania”

Hotel Transylvania is the latest in the trend of monster-themed movies to be released this year. But it’s not your typical monster film. Yes, there are monsters galore throughout the film, but the real monsters are humans – or at least, that’s what Adam Sandler’s Dracula believes.

Jonathan (voice of Andy Samberg) falls for Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez), much to the dismay of Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) (Image Credit: Sony Pictures Animation/SF)

Jonathan (voice of Andy Samberg) falls for Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez), much to the dismay of Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) (Image Credit: Sony Pictures Animation/SF)

So, what’s the best way to prevent humans from imposing harm on the legendary Count or any of his monster brethren? Build a lavish Transylvanian-style hotel and name it Hotel Transylvania (of course)!

It sounds like a very silly premise, but that’s what makes this film work. Hotel Transylvania borrows a page from Disney-Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (which will be re-released in 3D this December) and presents a lighter and clever take on the monster genre. While the film is not the caliber of the aforementioned Disney-Pixar classic, it isn’t necessarily a bad film, overall. Under Genndy Tartakovsky’s direction, the film stands on its own, successfully blending colorful animation and zany fun to deliver a charming animated treat just in time for Halloween.

Like the monsters in the film, the all-star voice cast is very colorful and a blast to watch. Sandler delivers a great performance as Dracula, whose likeness is modeled after the actor, himself. He speaks his lines with a credible Transylvanian accent, but is even funnier whenever he (irritably) addresses the notion that Dracula DOES NOT go “blaa, blaa, blaa!” Of course, the Count is infamous for sucking human blood. Sandler, however, is not too fond of it – because human blood “is too fatty, and you don’t know where it’s been.” Along with a distaste of human blood, Sandler’s Dracula is also a father – quite the overprotective one.

The plot focuses on the monsters coming together at the hotel to celebrate the 118th birthday of Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (the charming and spunky Selena Gomez). Things take an unexpected turn, however, when human tourist Jonathan (Andy Samberg) comes across the hotel and takes a liking to Mavis, much to Dracula’s dismay. The parent-child relationship presented in Hotel Transylvania is very similar to that of Disney-Pixar’s Brave, with Sandler stepping in for the role of the mother. Like the former’s Princess Merida, Gomez’ Mavis is free-spirited and eager to be independent, though her father isn’t ready to let her leave the nest. His love for Mavis is unquestionable, but that same love causes him to do whatever he can to ensure she’s protected – including one attempt that may threaten to shatter their relationship forever.

Samberg also hits the mark as Jonathan and delivers some of the best exchanges with Sandler throughout the film – including a scene where Jonathan discovers exactly why Dracula fears humans. Samberg also has great chemistry with Gomez simply because their characters are outcasts. Mavis is the daughter of an iconic bloodsucker who instills fear in humans; Jonathan is a hip, goodhearted thrill-seeker who is stereotyped as the real monster despite his harmless appearance. But they manage to look past their differences and accept each other for who they are. Jonathan even introduces Mavis to “a whole new world” (to quote Disney’s 1993 classic, Aladdin – minus the magic carpet ride). Their romance is the typical boy meets girl cliché that has been seen in countless films. But their strong performances make this vampire-human romance a bit refreshing, especially if you’re not too fond of the Twilight franchise.

Some of Sandler’s famous friends, including Kevin James as the lovable Frankenstein, David Spade as Griffin the Invisible Man and Steve Buscemi as werewolf husband Wayne, also check in for Mavis’ big birthday bash. Rounding out the cast is the funky Cee Lo Green as Murray the mummy, Molly Shannon as Wanda, Wayne’s werewolf wife, and a delightful Fran Drescher as Eunice, Frankenstein’s nagging wife who is modeled after Drescher as well. Loyal Sandler fans may be disappointed that Rob Schneider does not lend his voice to the animated hi-jinx.

Viewers will be in for a treat, however, with Jon Lovitz, whose voice some may not recognize behind the manic chef – and former Hunchback of Notre Dame – Quasimodo. Joining Quasi in the kitchen is his beloved Esmeralda – his beloved pet rat, that is. Esmeralda may not be Ratatouille (another Disney reference, I know), but it’s another great example of how the film cleverly re-imagines the monster genre.

From zombie bellhops to witches who serve as maids and shrunken heads – one whose voice is provided by actress Luenell – that act as “Do not disturb” signs, Hotel Transylvania is simply about the family-friendly fun Tartakovsky brings to the table. While many of the gags are intended for children, adults may also enjoy some of the antics, including a dining room scene that resembles a Quidditch game from the Harry Potter franchise. Make sure to look out for a hilarious scene where Dracula and the monsters encounter a “monster festival” that must be seen to believe.

If you’re looking to have a good time at the movies this fall, check into Hotel Transylvania and make yourself at home amongst the monsters. It’s to die for!

Hotel Transylvania is rated PG for some rude humor, action and scary images. Running time: 91 minutes.

Overall: B

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