Directed by: Gennedy Tartakovsky
Written by:Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel, Todd Durham, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Jon Lovitz, CeeLo Green
Released: September 20, 2012
Grade: B

Hotel Transylvania

It’s not easy being a monster.  It can be a tiring, exhausting profession with little chance of respite.  Thankfully, there’s now a place they can go to relax and unwind – the 5-star Hotel Transylvania.  It is run by the entrepreneurial Count Dracula (Sandler) and is located in a secluded forest that is inaccessible to humans.  The monsters can hang out with their “own kind” and not have to worry about the nasty humans.

It’s a busy time at the Hotel with many guests arriving for an important birthday party – Dracula’s only daughter, Mavis (Gomez), will finally be an adult.  She’s about to turn 118.  The guest list includes Frankenstein and his wife, a family of werewolves, an overweight mummy and an invisible man with red hair.  You’ll have fun trying to pick their voices with many recognisable names amongst the cast.

Mavis isn’t interested in the party though.  She’s spent her entire life cooped up in the hotel under the protection of her control freak father.  She’s keen to “leave the nest” and explore the rest of the world.  Count Dracula isn’t prepared to let go through.  His wife was killed by the humans many years ago and he’s intent on making sure that Mavis doesn’t meet the same fate.

The arrival of an unexpected party guest sharpens their conflicting views.  A dopey, 21-year-old backpacker named Jonathan (Samberg) has somehow navigated his way through the forest and arrived at Hotel Transylvania.  He’s the first human to have ever set foot inside its walls.  It sends Dracula into a panic and he’s worried that if the monsters find out, it will threaten the future of his exclusive hotel.

In a ham-fisted attempt to fool everyone, Dracula puts Jonathan in a monster costume and tells everyone that he’s been employed as a “party planner”.  Once all the festivities are done, he’ll be able to sneak him out the hotel and make sure he never returns.  It sounds like a workable plan but there’s a major loophole that threatens to bring everything undone – a quickly developing attraction between Jonathan and Mavis.

With a nice message and an easy to follow storyline, Hotel Transylvania is one of the year's better animated releases.  It's probably the pick of the family films over the September school holidays.  Adam Sandler’s Dracula persona gets a little repetitive but he shares some fun banter with fellow Saturday Night Live graduate Andy Samberg (Hot Rod) and Selena Gomez (Monte Carlo).

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of the “supporting monsters” but I can understand the need for condensing this story into 90 minutes given the film is being pitched at a young audience.  Steve Buscemi is great as a forlorn werewolf who has been driven to the brink of exhaustion by his many kids.  David Spade also steals a few scenes in his role as the Invisible Man.

It’s not a game changer but given the weak crop of animated films so far in 2012 (in which Brave has been the stand out), Hotel Transylvania could earn itself an Oscar nomination for best animated feature.