REVIEW: Don’t bother checking in to fourth ‘Hotel Transylvania’ film

The fourth and final “Hotel Transylvania” was initially set for a theatrical release, but this approach was later cancelled, with Sony Pictures instead taking a digital route.

It makes sense, because this has all the makings of a straight-to-home-video animated movie.

The installment takes place not long after the events of the third movie. Dracula (voiced now by Brian Hull), is still running the hotel and is now living there with his wife Erica Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn). At the movie’s outset, Dracula is considering retiring, and in the process, handing the keys to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg).

However, Dracula is nervous about doing so, as Johnny is not a monster. Johnny soon learns this and decides find  a way to turn himself into a monster. He succeeds, but this move accidentally turns other monsters, including Dracula, into humans. Determined to set things back to normal, Dracula and Johnny set off on an adventure.

When animated films begin employing tropes such as body swapping, it becomes clear that a series has run out of ideas. It showed up in the third “Shrek,” and it turns up again here as well.

OK, in fairness, there’s not an actual body swap in this movie, but it’s practically a de facto one, with two characters trading places and seeing what the other has to go through. As a result, the film ends up just going through predictable motions, with Dracula struggling as a human while Johnny learns how to be a monster.

The whole thing just feels like doing over what’s been done already in the last movies with a new coat of paint. This series has already been over Dracula’s mistrust of Johnny, and Johnny’s attempts to impress his father-in-law.

Even with this movie’s alteration of the franchise’s main driving force, which is Johnny and Dracula’s relationship, nothing really changes. Dracula is still an uptight control freak and Johnny is still a carefree lovable bumbler.

Courtesy Amazon Prime.

It just ends up being another rehash with these two, which as a viewer, makes it seem like you’re just treading water for an hour and a half. It’s too bad because the film could have been creative with the changing perspective concept introduced.

Maybe have Johnny start to become more serious and less fun-loving as he begins to take on more responsibilities with the hotel. Have Dracula start to notice that Johnny is becoming too uptight like himself and it’s making Mavis sad.

Or the film could go a route where as a monster, Johnny becomes suave and intellectual, kind of like how vampires have been portrayed in media, also turning off Mavis. Dracula, meanwhile, could become lazy and less serious as a human. Both Dracula and Johnny could then learn that maybe they both need to find a healthy balance.

What audiences get in “Transformania,” though, is just more of the same and it’s simply a let down.

This is true with the side characters, too. In the first two films, The Wolfman, Wayne (Steve Buscemi), being a monotone, mundane every-man with a ton of kids to watch after was funny, but the joke has just worn thin by now. The punchlines with the side characters have been dragged as far as they can go, even with them being humans this time around.

There are just a few bright spots in this installment. The animation remains a highlight, with the expressive, unique character designs playing a big role in keeping the movie energetic and entertaining. There are also a couple of fun moments of humor at play, that keep a viewer in a good mood.

The voice cast is fine, too. Samberg and Gomez have done solid work with their respective characters throughout the series and it’s true again with this film. Credit also should go to Brian Hull, who sounds exactly like Sandler as Dracula. The same is true for Brad Abrell, who replaced Kevin James as Frankenstein’s monster.

The “Hotel Transylvania” series started in really good fashion but is ending with a dud. The movie just spins its wheels, rehashing things from other movies, without ever going anywhere. Some nice animation and a couple funny moments sprinkled here and there aren’t enough to save this feature. 1.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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