Every Hotel has to close its doors eventually… but hopefully, it gets to do so when the time feels right.
In its fourth film, Hotel Transylvania: Transylvania comes at a time when Drac (Brian Hull, formerly Adam Sandler) is considering stepping away from the hotel game so he can spend more time with his new wife, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). When word gets to Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg), Johnny is thrilled! But Drac still has his concerns about letting Johnny have free reign over his beloved resort and convinces him that only monsters can run it. Determined to win Drac over, Johnny uses Van Helsing’s ‘Monsterfication Ray’ to correct that problem. However, after the ray goes haywire, Drac and his friends get to see what the world looks like through human eyes as they try to find a cure before it’s too late.
Directed by Jennifer Kluska and Derek Dryman, the wild and silly Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is meant to be the final film in the franchise. Written by series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, the script feels like a worthy addition to the series’ legacy as it continues the character development from the previous films. Led by Tartakovsky’s unique voice, the story still offers the same frenetic energy that families expect from the franchise. Returning stars Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez (now with a producer credit), Fran Drescher and David Spade seem as enthusiastic about the series as ever. (In fact, Spade’s role is drastically increased this time around.)
Even so, something feels… off about this Transformania.
Vibrant animation still pops with colour but somehow doesn’t entirely capture the magic of other entries. The most significant change, however, stems from its cast which has seen significant turnover this time around. Although several of the original cast remain, gone are franchise stalwarts Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and CeeLo Green. While their replacements do an entertaining job of mimicking their original cast members, the mix of old and new cast members is noticeable. (This is especially true in the case of Sandler who has remained the franchise’s focus throughout the previous films.) As a result of these changes, the film feels more like a transition away from its stars as opposed to any sort of wrap-up for the series. (In fact, for a film that’s supposed to be final chapter, the film’s ending doesn’t feel like they’re closing the book on the franchise at all.)
Although the franchise has always leaned heavily into the theme of ‘looking beyond appearances’, Transformania’s body-swap storyline manages to take it to the next level. As Johnny and Drac learn what it is to live in the other person’s [literal] shoes, so too do they also begin to understand the difficulties of each other’s experiences. While Johnny relishes the power of being a monster, so too does it almost drive him to madness. At the same time, Drac’s experience as a middle-aged man is a pain-inducing (and entirely relatable) nightmare but it also helps him to see the world from Johnny’s perspective. As the two men live with the strengths and weaknesses of the other, a deeper bond eventually emerges between them.
Because at the heart of this Transformania is trust.
For example, in Transformania, trust stems from one’s ability to see their value. Prior to the switcheroo, although Drac has grown fond of Johnny over the years, he still cannot bring himself to entrust him with the responsibility of the hotel. Johnny’s different ideas simply don’t align with Drac’s and so, he concocts an elaborate lie to prevent him from taking over. However, as Drac begins to realize the purity of Johnny’s soul, he understands how important he truly is to him. This reframing allows Drac to celebrate Johnny’s strengths and accept his faults, opening the door for trust to break in between them.
Filled with monster mayhem and madness, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania should entertain both kids and longtime fans of the franchise. Although, this is not a Hotel that feels closed. Just ‘under renovations’. With that being said, even though there definitely pieces missing, one has to hope that there’s a more fitting finale to the franchise.
This Hotel needs one last ‘grand re-opening’ in its future.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is available on Amazon Prime on January 14th, 2022.