“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” stars Brian Hull, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Asher Blinkoff, Brad Abrell, Fran Drescher, Jim Gaffigan, and Molly Shannon. Released on Amazon Prime on January 14, 2022, the film has Dracula and his friends facing another whacky dilemma at the hotel.
The film was directed by Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon. Kluska is a storyboard artist who worked on the previous “Hotel Transylvania” installments. Drymon is known for his work on shows like “Rocko’s Modern Life”, “SpongeBob SquarePants”, and “Adventure Time”. It is the fourth and final installment in the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise. Change can be scary for us. For the monsters inside the hotel, it can be straight-up terrifying. Sony’s popular animated franchise is back to deliver one last round of monster mayhem before the studio shifts its focus on the Spider-Verse later this year. It’s bittersweet for us monster fans, but even Sony knows when they’ve reached their limit. This film was originally scheduled for a theatrical release last Halloween. However, because of the rising COVID-19 cases, Sony sadly canceled its release plans, missing its well-timed release window. Later on, the studio sold the film’s distribution rights to Amazon Studios, and it was released exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. As a result, it became the first installment to be released on streaming instead of in theaters. Despite Genndy Tartakovsky not returning as director, I was willing to give this latest animated sequel a shot. However, I remained cautious because of the casting changes and its plot. With that in mind, let’s see if this sequel can transform itself into a monstrous and goofy conclusion.
The story once again centers on Count Dracula (Hull) and his monster pals in Hotel Transylvania. During a special celebration, Johnny (Samberg) is still facing the problem of being the only human in a hotel full of monsters. Hoping to fit in and gain Drac’s respect, he goes to Abraham Van Helsing (Gaffigan) for help. Helsing created a mysterious invention known as the “Monsterfication Ray” to turn Johnny into a full-fledged monster. Unfortunately, an unexpected incident causes the invention to transform the monsters into humans, including Dracula. This forces Drac, his daughter Mavis (Gomez), and the gang to race to South America and search for a cure before the transformations become permanent. If you’ve seen the previous “Hotel Transylvania” installments, you’ll already know what you’re getting yourself into regarding the quality. It’s an 88-minute slapstick cartoon that hearkens back to the classic wacky 90s cartoons, like “SpongeBob” and “Rocko’s Modern Life”. It’s surprisingly fitting since one of the directors was involved with those shows. One of the things I enjoyed from the previous films was that they deliver a sense of energy, joy, and wackiness into their monstrous concepts. They’re not enough to make them animated masterpieces story-wise, but they did help the movies become successful and enjoyable projects for Sony and Adam Sandler in my eyes. “Transformania” is unsurprisingly no exception, minus the Sandler, but it’s not without a few issues that were as terrifying as the monsters themselves. The film’s story takes the “Freaky Friday” approach by having Dracula and Johnny literally put themselves in each other’s shoes. Drac is a human, while Johnny is a ferocious beast. Amid its body-changing shenanigans, the movie also focuses on the developing relationship between the two characters that began in the 2012 film. We’ve seen these characters grow for less than a decade, and seeing this development come full circle in “Transformania” was both endearing and satisfying. However, the simplicity in its plot and a few questionable elements, including its jokes involving Griffin’s nudity, make this the weakest film in the series. Regardless, there’s still some enjoyment in the storyline, mainly due to the voice cast and its heartwarming messages about acceptance and looking for the good in everything. I think many kids will relate to these messages while having a good time watching Drac being consistently humiliated in his human form. As for everyone else, I would say it’ll depend on how much they enjoyed the predecessors. Most of the voice cast that reprised their roles from the previous films were still very entertaining in their roles. Thanks to his charm and frenetic nature, Andy Samberg continues to shine in his role as Johnny, and Selena Gomez is still a delight regarding her voice performance as Mavis. Brian Hull, who replaced Sandler, also didn’t do too bad as the voice of Dracula. While I still think Sandler is the best when it comes to the character, I would give Hull credit for attempting to capture Drac’s essence like the comedian did in terms of the vocal range and energy. Considering that Hull voiced the character in the short film “Monster Pets”, it seemed that Hull knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, the only replacement that I wasn’t a fan of was Brad Abrell, who replaced Kevin James as the voice of Frankenstein. I mean no disrespect to Abrell. I’m sure he did a fine job with his performance. It’s just that I think James did the character better. The animation served as one of the core strengths of the franchise regarding its lively and vibrant slapstick style, and “Transformania” managed to keep its dynamic presentation alive. Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska were given the task to maintain and honor what Genndy Tartakovsky delivered in the previous installments, and they succeeded with flying colors. The film’s style further emphasizes the fast-paced slapstick and wacky gags, similar to the classic 2D cartoons of yesteryear. This strategy works well in providing some fun laughs and colorful zest, but it’ll also annoy people who didn’t like the previous films because of their headache-inducing randomness.
Overall, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” scares up the same elements that worked in its predecessors. The result is a flawed yet mildly entertaining conclusion to Sony’s animated monster mash. Despite its simple storyline and a couple of casting changes, the film is another fun distraction for the franchise’s young fans and a few adults who grew up watching cartoons and monster movies. Thanks to its voice cast, animation, messages, and decent humor, “Transformania” proves that change isn’t as scary as it seems. If you liked the previous “Hotel Transylvania” films for what they are, I think you’ll probably enjoy this one as well, but not by much. If not, then you’re better off watching the classic monster movies that inspired it.