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Title: Hotel Transylvania
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Fran Drescher
Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky
Written by: Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Studio: Sony Pictures
Rated: PG
Runtime: 91 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 29th, 2013

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
HTS Overall Score:87

Sony Home entertainment is rather hit or miss with their animated films. For every endearing gem such as “Arthur’s Christmas,” we are regaled with stinkers such as “Smurfs,” and the even more painful sequel “Smurfs 2." Pixar and Disney they are not, and that is obvious in their newest animated feature film “Hotel Transylvania." “Hotel” doesn’t try and raise itself up to a story of epic proportions, but rather revels in the classic and simple, embracing every cliché and motif in the book. Aimed at kids, with some slightly more mature humor to amuse the adults, Sony has a safe and formulaic approach to their animated films that seems to work for them. What did surprise me was the bevy of big name voice actors they were able to rope in for this project, names like Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Fran Drescher. A mediocre film can rise up a notch just with a decent acting cast (or voice acting in this case), as proved in "Hotel Transylvania."

Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) has an extreme phobia of humans; he carries the scars of an angry mob from many centuries ago when he and his family were driven out of their home and persecuted on sight. As a result, he builds a giant, reclusive resort, exclusively for monsters, out in the middle of nowhere. It seems both him and his late wife had wished for a place that they could go to in peace, without being bothered by those pesky homo sapiens. Raising his only child alone in this gynormous castle of a resort tends to make him just a tad overprotective. As is true to life, his teenage (or in this case 118-year-old vampire) daughter doesn’t take kindly to an over-protective parent. Mavis (Selena Gomez) wants desperately to go out and explore the world that her father has sheltered her from all these years, and after what one presumes to be a century, Dracula promises that on her 118th birthday, he would let her go. The day finally arrives, along with a mob of monster guests specifically coming to celebrate her big day. Venturing forth, she stumbles upon a small village that just so happens to be a fake, planted by her father. The "inhabitants" run Mavis out of town at the points of pitchforks, and she returns home dejected, much to the glee of Dracula, who hopes that his little “trick” will keep her under his wing forever.

Unfortunately, as with mice and men, plans often go awry. A young hitch-hiker by the name of Jonathon (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the castle, not realizing what it really is; before Dracula can get rid of him, Mavis and Jonathon end up face-to-face, sparking an instant attraction between them. Now that Mavis has seen Jonathon (in a Frankenstein getup), Dracula can’t just get rid of Jonathon without raising too many questions, and if the other monsters find out that Jonathon is a human then the whole reputation of Hotel Transylvania would go up in smoke, so to speak. Thus Dracula comes up with the ruse that Jonathon is a party planner, here to help spice up Mavis’ birthday party with a fresh perspective; and give a fresh perspective is exactly what Jonathon does. Instead of the stodgy old-fashioned parties that Dracula has been throwing for the past 118 years, Jonathon adds a modern flair that appeals to Mavis in a big way. Realizing that there’s chemistry between his daughter and the human, Dracula does everything in his power to push the two apart. Realizing too late that being that heavy-handed can squash the dreams of the young, dreams that he, too, had at that age, Dracula must then do his best to repair the damage that he’s done.

“Hotel Transylvania” is NOT a complex story. It’s the basic over-protective father who wants to shield his child from anything and everything that could harm her, and then forgets that sometimes he should be protecting her from his own obsessive-compulsive controlling nature. Simple, to the point, but still endearing and heartwarming when done properly. Unfortunately for us, “Hotel” is a bit hit or miss. It's not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it does tend to be a tad bit uneven pacing-wise. There are scenes of the film that feel overly saccharine sweet, and HUGELY clichéd, but there are some truly sweet moments intermingled with utterly hilarious camaraderie among the monster sidekicks. What really saves this from being another derivative animated flick is the voice acting. Dare I say it….Adam Sandler was actually GOOD in a movie that wasn’t from before the 21st century! Add in the antics of Steve Buscemi and David Spade (and even some priceless one-liners by Fran Drescher) and laughs keep coming. Adam is surprisingly dialed down from his normal over-the-top acting and annoying voices. Instead, he sticks to his Dracula persona extremely well, playing the doting father, the dark monster, and the clueless parent all within the confines of the character instead of making the character just another Adam Sandler. Gomez is a tad weak as Mavis, mainly because I think her acting skills are not the greatest. Jonathon, however, is the one that really steals the show. Andy translates his goofy, SNL persona to Jonathon, giving him a bit of an airhead feel while still making him relatable and sweet enough to attract Mavis’ attention. Jokes can range from hilariously funny, to falling flat on their faces, but when the jokes work, they REALLY work. There are several pop culture vampire references in the film that had my wife and I in stitches. There’s a Twilight reference near the end that had me hitting the rewind button several times over just to replay.


Rated PG for some rude humor and scary images

Video :5stars:

Do I REALLY have to say anything, being that this is a brand new Sony animated release? Sony is bar none one of THE best studios for treating their day and date releases with the utmost care when it comes to transfers. “Hotel Transylvania” is no exception; the 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer is absolutely FLAWLESS. Colors pop off the screen and into your seats. The interior of the castle can be a bit dim and bleak, but there are colors abounding everywhere else , whether it be a bright lime green “blob” or the flashing oranges, reds, and yellows of flame. The animation is purely marvelous to look at, no jagged lines or haloing anywhere to be seen. Sony gave the disc plenty of breathing space so there are no compression artifacts anywhere on the disc. Blacks are rich and deep, no crushing whatsoever. Detail is off the charts, from the grungy stubble of Quasimodo to the curves and textures of Dracula’s cape; everything is meticulously detailed down to the individual threads on clothing. A truly excellent transfer in every way.

Audio :4.5stars:

The audio is no slouch either. Sony has given a very smooth and balanced 5.1 DTS-HD MA track for us to enjoy. Vocals are crisp and clean as usual, driven right in the center channel with the occasional panning across the front sound stage. Surrounds are use with fantastic results, witches fly by your head cackling and shrieking as they go, mini werewolves roughhouse across the entire soundstage, and the music is as enveloping as one could desire. LFE is tight and veryb very clean; it's nothing that’s going to make your walls fall down, but rather used as set piece for the musical numbers, although there are a few scenes that definitely get the low frequencies vibrating. I truly appreciate a well-balanced track as much as I enjoy an aggressive track, and “Hotel Transylvania” is definitely well-balanced. Clear mids and highs accentuated with a nice deep LFE additions carry the score from beginning to end. Not once did the effects or music overpower the rest of the track; instead, they integrated perfectly to create an immersive track that’s truly a beauty.

Extras: :3stars:
• Director's Commentary
Goodnight Mr. Foot : Mine Movie
• Deleted Scenes
• Meet the Staff and Guests: Voicing "Hotel Transylvania"
• Making the Hotel
• Progression Reels
• Music Videos
• Behind the Scenes of "Problem (Monster Remix)"
• Previews

Overall: :4stars:

"Hotel Transylvania" won't wow and amaze you with its story, like a Pixar film would; a bit rough and uneven at times, it is still a very entertaining romp for the family. Sweet and endearing, funny and eye-rolling all at the same time, it does what it sets out to do: entertain. What it lacks for in story, it makes up with heart and an excellent voice cast. The banter between the characters and some fantastic pop culture references and jokes about the ancient myths all rise it from the bog of mediocrity. Match that up with some absolutely incredible visuals, and I'm sure this will become another demo disc for years to come. I heartily recommend that you rent it, at the very least, to check out the fun.

Buy Hotel Transylvania on Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rent It

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