Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, 2022.
Directed by Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska.
Featuring the voice talents of Brian Hull, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Asher Blinkoff, Brad Abrell, Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan, Molly Shannon, and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
When Van Helsing’s mysterious invention, the “Monsterfication Ray”, goes haywire, Drac and his monster pals are all transformed into humans, and Johnny becomes a monster. In their new mismatched bodies, Drac, stripped of his powers, and an exuberant Johnny, loving life as a monster, must team up and race across the globe to find a cure before it’s too late and before they drive each other crazy. With help from Mavis and the hilariously human Drac Pack, the heat is on to find a way to switch themselves back before their transformations become permanent.
What started out as a somewhat cute take on Dracula from revered animated filmmaker Genndy Tartakovsky (credited with the story and one-third of the screenplay here) has not only worn out its welcome by this fourth entry titled Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, but even pillars of the voiceover cast have not returned this time around. With Adam Sandler dropping out of voicing Dracula, one is tempted to ask the point of a fourth installment. That’s not to say that Hotel Transylvania: Transformania would magically become a good movie with his presence because, in reality, it would still be yet another tired retread of the same story beats this franchise can’t resist touching upon, but more that its blinding no one saw the writing on the wall that it’s time to let this series die.
Two staples of the voiceover cast that do return are Andy Samberg and Selena Gomez as Johnny and Mavis, the human and monster duo with the latter as Dracula’s daughter. They are throwing a 125th-anniversary party for the titular hotel, where Dracula (voiced by the relatively unknown Brian Hull doing his best to fill the shoes of what have actually been some of Adam Sandler’s better work as of late) is contemplating retirement and preparing to hand ownership and control over to Mavis. Dracula is also aware that this means Johnny would also have a stake, something that by now you think he wouldn’t care about considering for the past three movies, he has gone from intolerable to acceptance. It’s the same story once again told under different circumstances.
The slight twist here is that when Dracula lies through his bloodsucking teeth to Johnny (inventing a rule that only monsters are allowed to possess ownership of the hotel), the well-meaning but dimwitted human seeks out the human/robot hybrid Van Helsing (voice by a returning Jim Gaffigan) to use a transformation gadget on him. During the process, chaos erupts, involving an exhausting chase sequence through the hotel that leaves Dracula facing the reverse outcome. The amount of imagination stand-in directors Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska (working with a script from more series newcomers Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo alongside the aforementioned original trilogy helmer Genndy Tartakovsky) have amounts to nothing more than twisting and flipping characters all over the screen, hoping that any movement will prove to be exciting (especially for younger viewers). The same applies during some action-packed globetrotting segments because, for whatever reason, Hotel Transylvania is never actually about the hotel.
Dracula’s loyal followers (some pleasantly recognizable voices return such as Steve Buscemi and Keegan-Michael Key, while Kevin James’ take on the Frankenstein monster does not) also get zapped into their human counterparts, which erases the initially promising dynamic that they wouldn’t have to be bossed around by their leader anymore. Instead, the filmmakers settle for atrocious comedy regarding a naked, no longer invisible man (David Spade) and a good-looking Frankenstein (Brad Abrell). Naturally, they try to keep Mavis in the dark about the madness breaking loose while Dracula and Johnny try to undo the damage.
That means Dracula has to lie to Johnny for assistance traveling the world to find a special crystal to recharge Van Helsing’s Monsterfication Ray, insisting Mavis can’t come along because this trip is also about father-son bonding. The one bright spot of Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is the realization of Johnny as a giant doofus lizard with one or two funny moments. Imagine Pete’s Dragon, but with a significantly lower IQ, and you have what Andy Samberg seems to be having a blast voicing. The filmmakers also at least try to present this round of bonding with a new layer, this time with the approach of finding the good inside the worst of people and situations, but it’s just simply not enough to justify more of any of these flicks.
There’s a metaphor involving burnt marshmallows and how you can crack them open to still discover a gooey and delectable center. Put it this way: there’s nothing to savor at the center or anywhere inside Hotel Transylvania: Transformania.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com