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'Hotel Transylvania: Transformania' review: Toon franchise has run out of energy and ideas

Courtesy of Sony/Amazon Studios


One of the more consistent animated money makers, it’s no surprise that 10 years later we’re still talking about another “Hotel Transylvania” film. A loose franchise that hasn’t been “good” (and I use the term loosely) since it began in 2012, the fourth (fourth!) entry subtitled “Transformania” tries to weave a fun “Freaky Friday” spin on the narrative in a last-ditch effort to milk the series for every penny. Forgoing a theatrical release in lieu of a premiere on Amazon Prime Video, the movie will find plenty of eyeballs from the young target demographic and though parents might occasionally chuckle at some of the sheer silliness the animators have cooked-up, this sequel is a far cry from the studio’s previous (and excellent) venture “The Mitchell’s Vs. The Machines” which is streaming on Netflix.

As for “Transformania,” the co-directing team of Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska couldn’t even convince series regulars to sign back on. That includes Adam Sandler, who provided his vocal chops in three previous entries playing the “bleh-bleh-bleh” Count Dracula, and Kevin James’ Frankenstein. I’m not sure it’s a complement to Sandler’s versatility that I couldn’t even tell he sat this one out, so props to franchise newcomer (and apparently rock-solid Sandler imitator) Brian Hull for filling the void. Children wouldn’t have cared either way nor will the story excite them, which deals with the impending retirement of Count Dracula and his succession plan of leaving the family business to daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and clumsy son-in-law, Johnny (Andy Samberg).

By some fluke, the characters find themselves on the other end of a magical device (courtesy of Jim Gaffigan’s Van Helsing) that inexplicably transforms them from monster-to-human and human-to-monster, setting off a strange mad-dash into the Amazon jungle to locate the antidote and reverse the “Monstifcation” spell. Unlike the usually reliable Pixar brand, Sony Pictures Animations is hit or miss, and “Transformania” lacks the type of smart wits or dialogue that’ll help keep kiddos and parents on the same wavelength. Not that a “Hotel Transylvania” was ever the gold standard in the animation realm and some of the hyper-kinetic, Looney Tune sequences displayed here can be mildly amusing if only because it’s moving so fast, there’s no time to process.

And that’s emblematic of the entire series: Look over here and pay no attention to the narrative happening in the purview. I suppose the good thing for parents in this being a streaming release is they won’t have to schlep to the local cinemas and pay top dollar, however, their children can also watch it on repeat as much as they want. I guess it’s true when they say you can’t win every battle. Bleh-bleh-bleh.

Grade: C-

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, January 14th.


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