Hotel Transylvian 4: Transformania;
Written by Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, Genndy Tartakovsky; Directed by Derk Drymon, Jennifer Kluska; Featuring the voices of Andy Samberg, Selina Gomez, Katheryn Hahn, Steve Buscemi, Brian Hull, and others. PG; 1h27m.
I’ll freely admit I really dig this series. My then-girlfriend, now-wife Allison, and I went to see the first Hotel Transylvania at the drive-in as the B-picture to Rise of the Guardians. I had dismissed it with “Adam Sandler and friends misunderstand the monsters for cheap laughs.” To my surprise, I found it to be a lot of fun, reverent to the Universal Monsters (I’m a Monster Kid and hold them in high regard), with a great sense of fun and great animation. I knew master storyteller Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, the first Star Wars: Clone Wars series… btw go watch those masterpieces) was directing, but he was a replacement director so didn’t expect to have his feel on it, thinking a work-for-hire – but it was there. So yeah, color me surprised that Hotel Transylvania is the one I liked, with Rise of the Guardians coming out “sure, fine.” (A shame, as I really liked the books it was based upon).
The first sequel (with Tartakovsky returning to direct, he’d stay in the chair for part 3 as well) did a great job not just retelling the same story and was just as good. The third was much lesser, repeating many of the same jokes in a new context. But it did have Katheryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan! It was fine, just not the same level as 1 and 2.
The fourth entry is a little below that. It’s fine but feels Direct To Video. It did go direct to Prime but wasn’t intended to. It’s one of those things where I feel I’d be disappointed seeing it on the big screen but was alright watching it on my TV while my baby destroys my living room.
The main issue is there’s nothing new to be explored. Andy Samberg’s Jonathan again doesn’t feel accepted by his father-in-law Dracula (Brian Hull, who sounds exactly like Sandler’s Drac), and Dracula again struggles with Mavis (Selena Gomez) having her own life (she’s right there, her day to day very entangled with his own, so what’s the deal man). This time, Jonathan asks Van Helsing for help and a machine is used to switch Jonathan into a monster, while Dracula and his friends are humanized. The goober breaks, so first Jonathan and Dracula head to South America for a new one, and the rest of the gang follows after them. Hijinks ensue. Just the character beats, many of the jokes are repeated. Even the new jokes, based on the humanness of the monsters, are beaten into the ground. Poor Mavis is very much shoved into the background as well.
While entertaining, the whole feels more of a contractual obligation. Most of the cast returns, with the director’s credits now given to Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska; both with extensive Art Design credits for animated film and story work for animated TV, especially Drymon on SpongeBob, CatDog, and Rocko’s Modern Life. Tartakovsky does get a writer’s credit, along with Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo (neither have many credits). Speaking of TV, there is a 57-episode show. While I’ve not seen it, Transformania could have been a very long episode of that. Heck, the last scene is done in the animation style of the series.
Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania is a fine enough diversion for 87 minutes if you like the series already and you accept the entry is a lesser quality. As I’ve said before “it’s for kids, who cares!?” isn’t a valid argument for lower quality, but the aim does factor in. The younger set who like the franchise (good kids! I’m trying to engrain the Universal Monsters into my 10-month-old, he has clothes, art, and a book featuring them; along with what’s around my house already) will get more out of it, but an adult will not grumble at having to watch it – possibly multiple times.