Capable of inducing the occasional giggle, a few sincere smirks and perhaps even a chuckle or two, 'Hotel Transylvania' opens for business with a who's who cast of CG characters from classic horror cinema. While gargoyles and living suits of armor run around as waiters and security guards, green-faced witches are hired as the domestic help and zombies moan their way through another workday as bellhops. The Fly leads swimming aerobics; a Day of the Dead skeleton band is the mariachi entertainment; the Blob is a silent guest, along with Bigfoot's feet; and Hydra suffers from a terrible case of multiple personality disorder. Heck, even a giant tarantula and octopus from 1950s B-movie classics make brief cameos.
Of course, the obvious horror icons of the genre are the movie's central figures as a close-knit gang of best buds who gather together every year and find relaxation from the human menace at this remote hotel. Adam Sandler stars as the neurotic, obsessive-compulsive control freak, Dracula, who also owns the resort. Kevin James plays the fire-hating but weirdly adorable Frank, and Fran Drescher's ear-bleeding voice is his bride. Steve Buscemi is the werewolf, a former wild, party animal who's settled down with a boisterous, untamed litter of puppies. Rounding out the lot is David Spade as practical joker The Invisible Man, Cee Lo Green as the lively and energetic Mummy, and Jon Lovitz as the angry gourmet chef Quasimodo with his pet rat Esmeralda.
So, why spend some time discussing the cast of characters? Because that's pretty much as good as it gets for the adults in the audience. The overtly cute and only mildly clever references in this CG-animated horror comedy from Genndy Tartakovsky, best known for his work in a variety of programs for the Cartoon Network, are employed (almost explicitly so) for the attention span of mature viewers. And even then, it's only for few short, sporadic moments. For the most part, it works while a simple narrative coasts decently enough on the buoyant spirit and zest of those characters. Unfortunately, much of the generally stale humor and comedy seen throughout the 90-minute family film is of the tee-hee variety, and they all failed to produce genuine laughter from this "horror nerd."
To be fair, 'Hotel' is clearly meant to accommodate the youngest in the audience while parents only tag along to pay the bill and suffer the damages later. (The kids will likely check out into this horror fantasy tale, but mom and dad can never leave.) This is most apparent when 'Wizards of Waverly Place' star Selena Gomez voices Dracula's rebellious daughter, Mavis. Sandler's Dracula built the hotel as both a secluded place for monsters and as a way of shielding Mavis away from the outside world. But with her upcoming 118th birthday, the little vampire is going stir- crazy and wants to explore what lies beyond the zombie graveyard and haunted forest surrounding the castle resort. Her itch to travel and discover on her own is further encouraged by Johnny (Adam Samberg), a hapless human who inadvertently stumbles upon the exclusive hotel.
The jokes surrounding the situational-comedy nature of the plot may feel wooden and labored from the eyes of grown-ups, but their silliness and spontaneity are very much the sort to provoke endless merriment for the little tykes. The well-meaning story of a parent coming to terms with their child growing up also wins some heartwarming points along with the interminable array of classic horror icons. But all in all, 'Hotel Transylvania' is geared towards the enjoyment of the youngest in the house and is sure to please in that respect, as they laugh at this revelry of otherwise scary monsters act the fool.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Hotel Transylvania' to 3D Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The first two discs are Region Free, BD50s sitting comfortably atop one another in the panel opposite a DVD-9 copy. Sadly, removing them from their place takes a bit of effort. All three are housed inside a slightly thicker than normal clear keepcase with a lenticular slipcover. At startup, the 3D disc commences with a series of skippable 3D trailers before switching to a 3D menu with music and full-motion clips.
'Hotel Transylvania' is open for business with an outstanding MVC encode that really pops off the screen. Only, it doesn't rely a great deal on your typical, in-your-face gimmick shots. Instead, the focus of the photography is on simply creating an amusing three-dimensional environment where characters appear to move independently of the background. Of course, a couple of action sequences do push the boundaries of the screen with wonderful effectiveness, namely the flying-tables competition between Johnny and Dracula. But again, it's not to the extent of making you flinch or jump back.
The 1.85:1 image simply comes with lots of depth and excellent separation of the characters in the foreground from the rest of the picture. Some of the most impressive moments are during the main hall entrance of the hotel when characters randomly walking around in the far back genuinely feel as if to be really distant from us. Other great scenes are with Johnny and Dracula again walking through the dank, stone hallways and the other end penetrates deep into the screen, making the passages seem elongated and afar. The crowded birthday bash is equally fantastic, generating a very cool layered, pop-up book effect that's quite immersive.
As for the rest of the animation, the transfer is a smorgasbord of richly-saturated primaries and extravagant secondary pastel hues. From the lush blood red inside Dracula's cape and of the castle's tapestries to vibrant, slime-like green of the Jell-O-like blob monster and the hotel's swimming pool, colors are absolutely pulsating with life and vitality. Contrast is pitch-perfect with sharp, crisp whites throughout, allowing for exceptional visibility of the tiniest object in the very distance. Black levels are inky rich with excellent gradations of the shadows during the many low-lit sequences, adding the picture's already excellent dimensionality.
Fine object and textural details are superb as the 3D characters move with incredible lifelike realism. The most minuscule imperfections and flaws in the stones of the castle are plainly visible, and you can practically count every wood shingle on the roof. Individuals hairs in the werewolf family are distinct and move independently of one another; each stitch on Frank and his bride are discrete; and the sandy bandages covering Murray are very well-defined. Although the faces of Dracula and Mavis are pretty smooth, the hairs on their head and the threading in their clothing are terrifically detailed and sharp. Overall, the animated horror family comedy arrives with a demo-worthy high-def presentation.
The CG movie also debuts with a highly-enjoyable and wildly entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that will please the entire family. There's isn't a whole lot going on in the rears, at least not in the sense of creating a fully immersive aural experience, but several excellent atmospherics and discrete effects nicely extend the soundfield. Many of these sounds are very light and mainly employed for creating the sort of ambience you'd expect from a tale with monsters. Generally, back speakers are reserved for the few moments of action or the birthday bash towards the end, and they're done with amusing directionality.
For the remainder of the movie's runtime, audience attention is kept in the front soundstage where imaging is wide and spacious with well-balanced channel separation. Objects move back and forth and bounce around all over the screen with flawless, convincing panning. The mid-range during these sequences remains crystal-clear and dynamic. We can hear every clank and clink in the metal of the armored security guards, and even the sizzling of Dracula's bat wings when he flies during sunlight is as distinct and detailed as every other sound. Low bass is deep and responsive, particularly during the musical numbers and song selections. Amid all the noise and hullabaloo, dialogue is precise and intelligible in the center, making this a pleasant and overall gratifying lossless mix.
Supplements include an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
'Hotel Transylvania' opens for business with a heartwarming tale about Dracula and his rebellious daughter, a CG-animated family feature that will likely have the little tykes screaming with laughter. Unfortunately for the parents, the horror comedy offers little relaxation and entertainment beyond the stilted humor and the drawn-out silliness. The 3D Blu-ray, on the other hand, arrives with outstanding picture quality and an excellent audio presentation. With a nice collection of bonus material, the overall package is a decent purchase for the family and 3D enthusiasts alike.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.