Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 91 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2012
A very pleasant surprise.
After the advertising: monsters, their own hotel, humans as the enemy – and the voices of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg after the ugliness of That’s My Boy, it didn’t look so good. But, I would imagine adults taking their children will quite enjoy it, even get a kick out of it with its playing on the old horror conventions. But, almost immediately, as we are introduced to Dracula in 1895, the birth of his daughter and his planning of his hotel resort just for monsters to get away from it all, the thought comes: what will smaller children make of his this monster lore that they have not been exposed to yet (we hope)? They will enjoy it with all the shenanigans, the odd-looking characters and the comedy – maybe this is their introduction to Dracula and co.
The film is quite bright and breezy, with lots of incidental jokes and plenty of references to the movies for those who enjoy that kind of thing. There is Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James), large but tending to fall to pieces (and not being put back together quite correctly). There is Wayne the Werewolf (voiced by an excellent Steve Buscemi) and his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon) and their crowd of obstreperous pups (except for the little girl who comes into her own with tracking skills for the climax). There are plenty of zombies, there is Quasimodo, and with his glasses, The Invisible Man (seen shaving his invisible face!).
Actually, this is a father-daughter film. The widowed Dracula (yes, he is voiced, and very effectively, by Adam Sandler) wants to protect his daughter and has arranged a special 118th birthday party with all the monsters invited, and accepting. She is a typical 21stcentury teenager (who assures her father that she is not 83 any more) and wants to see the world. Daddy does not want her to leave, even though he and his wife were married in Hawaii. Lots of father-daughter talk and arguments.
But, who should arrive at the hotel but a human, Johnny (Andy Samberg)? He is well traveled, and is a party organizer. He persuades Dracula to let him stay – and, sure enough, romance ensues. Dracula gets to like the human despite all the propaganda at the Hotel against them. There is a dramatic climax, including the real monsters encountering a monster festival in the town, a race to the airport to bring Johnny back, and Dracula (in his bat form) risking his life through sun exposure chasing the plane to bring Johnny back.
The parody of the monsters acting as themselves, but also acting like humans, has some very funny moments as well as some poignant ones. And this has to be the nicest Dracula who every trod the screen, the pleasantest Frankenstein monster and the funniest werewolf.
The character drawing is lively, the castle and other backgrounds vivid. I could have done without the rap song at the end – but, I suppose, it is the 21st century!
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