Built high on a rocky cliff, Hotel Transylvania is no tropical retreat. Still, it provides refuge and relaxation for the monsters, zombies and other spooky specters that come there as the clients of the owner Count Dracula (voice by Adam Sandler). But while the ghoulish guests appreciate the respite from human persecution, the Count’s daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) yearns to break out and see what’s on the other side of the castle walls.
As the old familiar faces arrive to celebrate Mavis’ 118th birthday, the young girl resolves to hold her father to his promise to let her flit her tiny bat wings across the countryside on the eve of her party. However after getting the okay to swoop downhill to a nearby human village, Mavis is suddenly surrounded by an angry mob brandishing pitchforks and flaming torches. In a matter of minutes, she believes the world outside the castle to be as horrible and scary as the bedtime stories her father told her. Rushing home, she relinquishes her dreams of ever leaving again.
At the same time, the flames from the village attract the attention of a young backpacker named Jonathan (voice of Andy Samberg) who makes his way past the town, up the hill and through the revolving front doors of the hotel. The Count’s discovery of a human in his secluded accommodations sends chills up his lifeless spine. Afraid of losing his guests’ trust and exposing his daughter to this terrible threat, Dracula forces the tousled haired redhead to pretend he is a distant relative of Frankenstein’s (voice by Kevin James).
Yet while the Count tries to find a way to successfully remove Jonathan from the premises without revealing his identity and alarming the patrons, the partygoers (voices by Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade and CeeLo Green) take a liking to the new arrival that brings an enthusiastic spirit of fun to the usually dreary birthday bashes. Most enthralled by his presence is the guest of honor herself.
Although the Count comes across as an overly precautionary dad, the story gives good reason for his reticence to let Mavis fly the coop. Addressing preconceived notions about others—in this case how monsters feel about humans—the film recognizes some parental worries seems justified, at least to the parent. Employing as much adult oriented humor as kid-aimed cracks, Hotel Transylvania‘s script includes some smart one-liners, funny sight gags and rude jokes (often about fecal matter), most of which are more chuckle-worthy than laugh-out-loud. However gruesome images of burning zombies, creatures impaled with pitchforks and skeletons rising from the grave make this animation better suited for a slightly older audience.
With its cold brick walls, zombie staff and shrunken head door signs, Hotel Transylvania might not make the top 10 list of places to vacation. But an evening’s stop at this monstrous destination may still be worth the ticket price for older family viewers who don’t suffer from ghoul-induced nightmares.