HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA is a relentlessly obvious and overplayed exercise in draining the last dregs from a moribund franchise. Let me put it this way. Adam Sandler, not known for discriminating taste in projects, took a pass on this material that continues the saga of Drac, the vampiric proprietor of the titular establishment that caters to monsters.
The plot remains the same, with Drac (Brian Hull replacing Sandler and getting very low billing) fretting about losing his beloved daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) to growing up and having a life of her own. Never mind that she’s been married for a several years to Johnathan (Andy Samberg), the goofy human backpacker who stole her heart a few installments back and then fathered her son, Dennis. Never mind that Drac has got his own main squeeze, Ericka (Jessica Hahn), great-granddaughter of fabled monster-hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). Never mind that he’s planning on retiring by handing the hotel over to Mavis and Johnathan. At least until Johnathan adds some questionable flair (juggling chainsaws) to the hotel’s 125th anniversary party where Drac was going to make the surprise announcement. Instead, he tells Jonathan a fib about non-monsters being forbidden to own real estate in Transylvania, which sets the rest of the plot in motion and drags a storyline of 20 minutes or so into over 90.
This involves a convenient invention by Van Helsing that turns humans into monsters and vice-versa. Alas, Johnathan’s eager metamorphosis aimed at pleasing his disapproving father-in-law ends up turning the vampire into a pudgy human, and then sending them both on an adventure to a treacherous jungle and a perilous river in South America after swearing Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Frankenstein (Brad Abrell), the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), and The Invisible Man (David Spade) to secrecy. Of course, they spill, and not just because they’ve been discombobulated after being de-monstered themselves by the invention. Though seeing Blobby, the giant and silent green gelatinous DJ, reduced to a dessert had to take its psychic toll on them.
Despite a few inspired bits of animation involving a crystal cave of endlessly self-reflexive reflections, this is a comedy with nothing to recommend it, least of all anything laughter inducing. The stale jokes fall flat. Ericka exclaiming that it’s not as though they keep a mad scientist in the basement before remembering that that’s exactly what her great-grandfather is being the perfect example of what passes for humor. Samberg keeps Johnathan at a single note on that goofy scale, exclaiming the lines as though volume will make up for the lack of wit. That, alas, is in keeping with the characterization as a whole. There is nothing dynamic or layered here aside from the clever use of color effects and a brief sequence of Drac playing chicken with the sun after becoming human.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA probably won’t, ahem, put the final nail in the franchise’s coffin. I’m still going to put some garlic flowers over the cinematic doorpost, though.