Sony Animation’s "Hotel Transylvania" is a harmless slip of a film that goes down so easy it’s almost flavorless. Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky who is responsible for some of television’s greatest animated shows ("2 Stupid Dogs," "The Powerpuff Girls," "Samurai Jack") it’s surprising that this full-length feature ends up being rather lifeless by the end. Perhaps it’s because the film runs longer than a half-hour cartoon show. Perhaps it’s because the script doesn’t find any sort of new emotional territory. Whatever the case, the film is amusing and looks great, it’s just not something anyone needs to run out to see.
Opening with Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) coo-cooing his baby girl Mavis, we learn that he is very protective of her since her mother’s recent death. Cut to 118 years later, Dracula runs a Hotel for Monsters and has invited all his friends to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) has hit adulthood in vampire years and is desperate to go out into the world and explore. But a tragedy in his past has made Dracula fearful of all humans and he refuses to let Mavis be discovered by the regular world. At her insistence, he finally allows her to go to a nearby human town only to have fooled her by setting up a fake street where all the "humans" are played by his zombie friends and act as if they are out to get her. Terrified that all humans are pitchfork and fire-waving lunatics, Mavis agrees to never leave the castle again.
But just as all of Dracula’s guests arrive including Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Wolfman Wayne (Steve Buscemi), and the Mummy Murray (CeeLo Green), so does a human who accidentally happens to find his way into the secret part of the forest where the castle lays. The human, a twenty-year old named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) is backpacking his way through Europe and completely clueless about what he’s stepped into. Fearful that his guests will realize a human is in their presence, Dracula disguises Jonathan as Frankenstein’s long-lost cousin that allows the others to immediately accept him, including Mavis who quickly falls in "zing" with him.
Of course by film’s end there will be a lot of mayhem, mistaken identity, father/daughter coming to terms, and acceptance of the human species. In this, there is much humor and colorful antics by all the players. There are some clever and inventive set pieces and some real artistry at work. But overall it’s just a mild amusement that doesn’t really enter the lexicon of non-Disney animated films the way movies like "Ice Age" or "How to Train Your Dragon" have. It’s cute, but you’ll live if you don’t see it. If you do, you’ll be entertained for sure, but how much you’ll retain after seeing it is suspect. If I had to say "yay" or "nay" I’d give it a warm-hearted "meh."