Universal's classic monster stable of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and the Mummy find themselves thrust into the world of 3D animation for this family film about a very unusual father and daughter duo. The dad is Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his offspring is 118-year-old Mavis (Disney starlet Selena Gomez), a girl, still teenaged in looks and personality, keen to experience a life outside the walls of the Transylvanian holiday resort that gives this movie its title.
Drac runs a high-end retreat at his secluded castle, which attracts clientele of the werewolf, ghost and ghoul kind. This gives screenwriters Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel the opportunity to assemble some of moviedom's iconic monsters for some lighthearted japes in Romania. Added into the mix is human visitor Jonathan (Andy Samberg), who stumbles into the mansion and immediately strikes up a bond with Mavis. This naturally irks the Count, who's already going to elaborate lengths to warn his daughter off human interaction.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky, a veteran of animated TV shows Star Wars: Clone Wars and The Powerpuff Girls, is tasked with bringing these disparate characters together, something that stumped the makers of 2004 misfire Van Helsing. He gets some impressive vocal performances from the likes of Sandler, Steven Buscemi (Wayne the werewolf) and Kevin James (Frankenstein's monster), but the novelty of seeing all these characters together is one that wears off quickly.
Hotel Transylvania's most evident stumbling block comes in its clichéd and predictable script. The movie isn't without some charm - its animation style, though far from cutting edge, is quaintly retro - but its gags frequently misfire and there's a real lack of imagination in some of the set pieces.
Though Tartakovsky and co clearly have a very specific target audience in mind, they don't invest their creatures with (forgive the pun) much bite. Dracula occasionally fires himself up into a rage, but considering the darkness evident in the source material from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, there's little here to get the heart racing. Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, opening in cinemas later this month, is a perfect example of a film that successfully brings monster movie tropes to a family audience without completely frightening the heebie jeebies out of them.
Hotel Transylvania might be useful as a primer to introduce young film fans to some classic screen creatures, but it falls way behind the standard set by wittier animations from the likes of Pixar and Aardman.