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Friday, January 14, 2022

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Director: Jennifer Kluska, Derek Drymon

Studio: Amazon Studios/Columbia Pictures

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania continues gruesome, but laugh-out-loud misadventures.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a direct sequel and follow up to Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation, released in 2018. Originally, this new Hotel Transylvania sequel was set to be released in theaters, but since the COVID cases have surged back up on its feet, the film is, instead, heading towards Amazon Prime Video at your houses, and computers on January 14th, 2022 sadly. Animator Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon take their first directorial gig to helm this fourth and final sequel of the Hotel Transylvania film series. While most of the actors return from the previous films, a few newcomers are introduced in this film.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania focuses on Count “Drac” Dracula, who, after tampering with Dr. Van Helsing’s monster/human-transforming invention, has accidentally transformed himself and his monster friends into humans, while his son-in-law Johnny, the only human at the titular location, Hotel Transylvania, has also transformed himself into a monster as well. In their new bodies, Drac and Johnny, along with their newly-transformed buddies, must team up to put their differences aside and race across the world to find the cure in order to switch back into their old bodies before their transformations become permanent forever.

Count “Drac” Dracula is voiced by newcomer Brian Hull, replacing Adam Sandler, who has previously voiced him in the last three films. If you don’t know who Brian Hull is, he is a famous YouTuber known for singing Disney’s Frozen song, Let it Go!, in different Disney character voices, for which he became a YouTube phenomenon for all Disney fans out there. Under the directors’ influence, Hull, in his acting debut, takes his first motion-picture acting gig and completely follows his Dracula character and the script lines written by Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, and Genndy Tarkakovsky (who directed the previous three films and created Dexter’s Laboratory).

Saturday Night Live alumni Andy Samberg returns to the sequel, reprising his role as Johnny, an ordinary human who is Mavis’ husband and Dracula’s son-in-law. For this part of the movie, Johnny feels left out since he is a human and not a monster. He has two biggest fears shown in the film: in the future, he might screw things up at the hotel and his father-in-law Count “Drac” Dracula would not accept him for who he is. His persona as either a human being or a monster, along with Drac’s, is always the conscience of how to overcome one’s own differences between humans and monsters and understand what it means to be part of the family and how important it is on what he has become. It’s a life lesson for both families, in-laws, and friends along the way. Basically, Johnny is what reminds us of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, just like the first Hotel Transylvania film, released back in 2012.

The film is directed by Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon in their directorial debuts. As much as Hotel Transylvania watchers know Jennifer Kluska, some (maybe most) fans recognized Derek Drymon who is known for directing Spongebob Squarepants episodes from the past. Under their direction, this animated sequel, like the first film, depicts an interracial marriage as much interracial marriages historically had been illegal in most states of the United States. It’s where the directors have provided some dynamic elements for the Dracula character as they know what they are doing every single step of the way. They even provided comedy for both Dracula and the Johnny characters to keep the flow of the story. While the comedy and emotions draw upon the film, some unemotional writing tones and some empty plot holes, however, do need work. Nevertheless, it’s a fun-filled sequel with some minor characters being invited to the party, such as Frankenstein, Griffin the Invisible Man, Wayne, and Murray to keep this film entertaining. Even Mark Mothersbaugh is brought back on the set to score the film, having previously done so in the first three installments.

Also returning for the story are Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) as Dracula’s daughter Mavis, Kathryn Hahn (Wandavision) as Dracula’s wife Ericka Van Helsing, Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show) as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) as Wayne the werewolf, Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live) as Wayne’s werewolf wife Wanda, David Spade (The Emperor’s New Groove) as Griffin the Invisible Man, and Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) as Murray the ancient mummy. However, another newcomer Brad Arnell voices Frankenstein in this sequel, replacing Kevin James, who previously voiced him from the last three films.

Despite the valiant efforts coming from the directors and animators, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania somehow lies on the average 90-minute film, but it is the most improved animated film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise. It’s not a good movie or a bad movie, but it’s better than the previous three films. The voice cast did a terrific job, but Brian Hull really outshines them all as he steals the show. In my opinion, it’s nowhere near as good as other animated films or franchises like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Toy Story, or How To Train Your Dragon, but at least it’s not an newly-awful Ice Age sequel. Hate to break it to you, but this sequel is a hard pass for me. Just so you know, I already got to see this early in theaters for a full rare cinematic experience.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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