In Hotel Transylvania, Count Dracula is portrayed as sympathetic and misunderstood. Voiced by Adam Sandler (who does a decent job with the voice, staying in character and not diverting into his somewhat annoying high-pitched mode as he's done elsewhere), his main goal in life is to be a good father to his daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) after her mother has died. The events that led to her death have led him to distrust all normal humans and teach his daughter to fear them, saying that they will do terrible things such as steal her candy. He then finds a location far from human activity and builds the castle-like Hotel Transylvania as a place where all monsters can vacation in peace. Every year on Mavis' birthday, he invites all the monsters there for a celebration- this time it's for her reaching the milestone age of 118 (yes, that's three digits.)
Hundreds of monsters travel to the hotel for the birthday celebration, with Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), the Invisible Man (David Spade), the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi) with his wife (Molly Shannon) and their many children, and Murray, a fat version of the classic Mummy (CeeLo Green) primarily getting most of the lines and screen time. Mavis is tired this year of the usual festivities feeling that she's too old, and Dracula is becoming increasingly worried about her desire to explore the outside world and see for herself what humans are really like (shades of The Little Mermaid?)
Matters become really complicated when a young American traveler named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel thinking it's the more conventional type, but isn't bothered by what he finds and in fact wants to hang out with the guests. Though Dracula realizes he isn't any threat, he quickly hides him from the other guests as their seeing him there would ruin the hotel's reputation as a "human-free sanctuary". He disguises Jonathan as a sort of younger Frankenstein so he'll blend in (I found this a bit silly), and allows him to help plan Mavis' party when he's resistant to leaving right away. Mavis then starts to fall in love with Jonathan, causing further stress to Dracula- should he keep trying to get rid of Jonathan, or admit to Mavis that humans aren't as bad as he's made them out to be?
Hotel Transylvania is clearly meant to be a family film, so morbid humor and gross-out gags are kept at a minimum (they still manage to get a fart joke in, which I'm trying very hard to forget about. In my day they never did that in a kids' movie!) The main theme seems to be accepting the differences of others, which I can't argue with. Older viewers may find it a bit beneath them, but it's still too much fun to dislike. As far as the plot goes, I would have preferred to see how the hotel operated normally rather than just for the special occasion here, and a little more from the supporting characters would have been nice as well (Steve Buscemi in particular should have been given more to do). A sequel has already been announced, so we'll have to see what happens there.
Hotel Transylvania is presented on three separate discs: a 3D-only Blu-Ray disc, a 2D Blu-Ray and standard DVD (two of the discs are stacked on top of each other in the case, a slight annoyance although I'm not sure how much use the standard DVD serves for one who owns a 3D system anyways). The 3D, sad to say, was not very impressive. There is a bit of depth to the picture that distinguishes it from the 2D version, but it's not as prominent as other animated 3D movies I've seen, and there are no "coming-out-of-the-screen" effects. The intention here was likely to make the 3D an enhancement but not a distraction, which is fine although it's certainly a good reason why there should not be an extra charge at theaters for 3D- I suspect more than a few people felt cheated in this case after paying the extra bucks. At home it certainly looks nice, but this shouldn't be the very first thing you watch on your new 3D setup and it won't really 'wow' your friends as much as other movies either.
General picture quality on both the 3D and 2D Blu-Rays is great, as computer-animated movies usually are. The settings are primarily dark, but just the right amount of light is added to let the details show through without spoiling the atmosphere. The color scheme used here is interesting- although Hotel Transylvania would have worked well in black-and-white or with very little color, bright colors are used effectively in many scenes while also still keeping with the 'dark' theme of the movie (the primary color appears to be purple.) The standard DVD seems to use the same transfer, and appears adequate although noticeably softer and less detailed.
Both Blu-Rays feature the main audio in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue is well-recorded with some panning, and there are a good number of surround effects although this isn't a very "busy" track overall. Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh provides a good orchestral score, and there are a couple catchy original songs thrown in as well.
5.1 dubs in Spanish and Canadian French are included, in addition to Portuguese on the 2D Blu-Ray disc only. A descriptive audio track for the visually impaired is included as well, with another one in Portuguese on the 2D Blu-Ray (the first time I've encountered a descriptive track in another language!)
Standard and SDH style English subtitles are included, as well as French and Spanish subtitles with Portuguese again only on the 2D Blu-Ray.
Most times when the 3D version is on a separate disc, the extras have only been on the 2D disc, but here the extras are repeated on both (with optional English and Spanish subtitles). Although they are all presented in 2D, selecting them during playback of the 3D movie keeps your display in 3D mode, allowing you to watch them with the 3D glasses on. (Since my active 3D glasses are dark, I've adjusted my TV's picture settings while in 3D mode to compensate. It's preferable to keep the glasses off when viewing 2D material except in this case.) If you select them from the main menu, the TV is flagged into 2D mode. This is awkward as the menu is in 3D and hard to read without the glasses, plus my TV flashes annoying messages onscreen whenever it switches between 2D and 3D.
All three discs include a short cartoon titled "Goodnight Mr. Foot" (with a 2-channel sound mix). This is in a more traditional (non-CG) animation form, with Bigfoot checking in to the Hotel Transylvania on a normal night. Three deleted scenes in rough sketch form, a music video by Becky G of "Problem" (heard during the movie's end credits) and a making-of piece for the video are also included.
Exclusive to the Blu-Ray discs are two featurettes: "Meet the Staff and Guests: Voicing Hotel Transylvania" interviews the primary voice cast and shows footage of their recording sessions, while "Making the Hotel" discusses the design and animation. There are also three "Progression Reels" where an animator provides further information on some of the animation techniques used here.
A commentary track with director Genndy Tartakovsky, producer Michelle Murdocca and visual effects supervisor Daniel Kramer is included on all three movie presentations. This will primarily be of interest to animation fans as they mostly discuss the design and animation. Subtitles for the commentary in English and Spanish are included, with Portuguese as well on the 2D Blu-Ray.
The 3D disc opens with previews in 3D and 5.1 Dolby Digital for The Smurfs 2, Arthur Christmas, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Accessible from the main menu is also a 3D trailer for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and a short clip from Monster House which has been included on many of Sony's other 3D titles. The 2D discs open with the same previews (except the teaser for Arthur Christmas is used rather than the regular trailer) as well as a promo for the Sony Entertainment Network, with a trailer for Adventures in Zambezia accessible from the menus.
Some DVD-ROM games are said to be included on the standard DVD, but I could not get them to work on my computer.
Hotel Transylvania could have ended up much worse, given the number of rewrites and director changes it had. The final result is decent entertainment for kids, but fun for adults who aren't too uptight as well. The use of 3D is subtle, so its being in 3D should not be the sole reason for watching it.
Pictures in this review were taken from the 2D Blu-Ray disc.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.