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"HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA"
(2022) (voices of Brian Hull, Andy Samberg) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Computer-Animated Comedy: After being turned into a human and a monster respectively, Dracula and his human son-in-law set off to find a ray gun crystal that will return them to their previous states.
PLOT:

It's the 125th anniversary of the Hotel Transylvania, and much to the happiness of his human wife, Ericka (voice of KATHRYN HAHN), Dracula (voice of BRIAN HULL) is secretly planning on retiring and handing over control of the monster-friendly hotel to his vampire daughter, Mavis (voice of SELENA GOMEZ), and her goofball human husband, Jonathan (voice of ANDY SAMBERG). But when the latter learns of that, he can't control his excitement, all of which worries Dracula about changes the human might make. Accordingly, he lies to Jonathan about a property transfer clause that prevents a human from taking over the establishment.

Dejected, Jonathan turns to former monster hunter Van Helsing (voice of JIM GAFFIGAN) who offers to turn the human into a monster via his monsterfication ray gun. That works, but through a series of mishaps, Dracula and his friends -- werewolf Wayne (voice of STEVE BUSCEMI), invisible man Griffin (voice of DAVID SPADE), mummy Murray (voice of KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY), and stitched together Frankenstein (voice of BRAD ABRELL) -- all are accidentally turned into humans while the ray gun ends up damaged.

Needing a new crystal to power that, Dracula and Jonathan set off for a remote South American jungle and cave to find the gem, all while hoping to keep what's transpired secret from Mavis.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

In the appropriately titled episode "The Opposite" of TV's classic sitcom "Seinfeld," George acknowledges that every decision he's made in his life has been wrong and that his life is completely opposite of what he thought it would be. Jerry then gives his pal the advice that if every instinct he's had has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. George tries that and by being the opposite of his normal self he finds success.

Fiction writers have used the "opposite" themed storyline plenty of times before, ranging from "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" through the likes of "Star Trek's" "The Enemy Within" episode featuring evil versions of the usual cast of characters up through all of the body-switching flicks that have come along since then.

The latest such switcheroo offering is "Hotel Transylvania: Transformania," the fourth and reportedly last installment of the "HT" computer-animated comedy franchise that began back in 2012 with subsequent numbered releases in 2015 and 2018.

The gist this time around is that Dracula (voiced by Brian Hull replacing Adam Sandler who flew from the series like a vampire bat into the night) is planning on retiring and handing over the keys to his kingdom...um, long-standing hotel (now celebrating its 125th anniversary)...to his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), and human (not to mention demonstrably overzealous) son-in-law, Jonathan (Andy Samberg).

But when he believes the latter will turn the place into a three-ring circus of sorts, he has a change of mind and heart and lies to Johnny boy that such haunted, monster-friendly property can only be transferred to another monster. The human's solution is to seek out Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and have the mad scientist transform him into a monster.

He does, but once Drac gets sight of the change, he grabs the monsterfication ray gun and attempts to reverse the curse. Instead, he inadvertently zaps himself and a fountain from which his monster friends -- Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Griffin (David Spade), Murray (Keegan-Michael Key), and Frankenstein (Brad Abrell replacing Kevin James from the prior installments) -- drink, resulting in all of them becoming human.

Oh, and during all of that, the ray gun ends up damaged, all of which means Drac has to set off for South America with his new monsterized son-in-law to find a crystal to fix the gun and reverse things before it's too late. Thanks to screenwriters Amos Vernon & Nunzio Randazzo and Genndy Tartakovsky that means a zany, mismatched buddies road trip story where co-directors Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska have things move along at a brisk and often hyperactive pace.

While that should appease kid-aged fans of the series, it could likely end up exhausting for any parent or adult guardian in tow who will likely grow tired of the shenanigans -- with the positive behavioral and societal messages shoehorned in for good measure -- to the point of wishing the switch back to character normalcy will occur sooner than later.

I'll admit a few gags and lines of dialogue had me occasionally chuckle, but that's not exactly a glowing endorsement for a comedy that feels like it should have checked out of the movie hotel business a few stays ago. If you've never been a fan of the franchise, in no way is "Hotel Transylvania: Transformania" going to transform you into George Costanza and make you react the opposite of what you expect. It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed January 9, 2022 / Posted January 14, 2022


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