It has been a long time since Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation came out, as the fourth installment in the beloved franchise was delayed significantly due to the ongoing pandemic. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania returns with much gusto, a significant improvement from its predecessor, and a wholesome addition to the series in terms of tone and subject matter. Genuinely fun and touching in parts, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania casts familiar characters in new molds, adding more heart to the franchise.
Transformania opens with a grand in-hotel celebration, with Dracula (Brian Hull) looking forward to putting on a memorable show for his guests. At the last minute, Jonathan (Andy Samberg) takes over, infusing the proceedings with his chaotic energy. Things inevitably go downhill, much to Drac’s chagrin. However, more concerned with the big announcement of passing over the ownership of the hotel to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), Drac spends his time rehearsing the speech for the big reveal, while sharing his concerns with an ever-supportive Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). After Mavis overhears this conversation and shares the news with Johnny, the latter, hyperactive as he is, rushes to the Count and relays his adventure-themed renovation plans for the hotel, which are completely at loggerheads with the current gothic, vintage aesthetic.
This, understandably causes Drac to panic, who lies that a certain law prohibits humans from overtaking hotels originally owned by monsters, and then proceeds to not reveal the transferred ownership to Mavis during his big speech. A disappointed Johhny bumps into Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who introduces him to his latest invention, the Monsterification Ray, which can turn humans into monsters, and vice versa. Excited to truly be a part of his family, Johnny urges Helsing to use the ray on him, which turns him into a winged dragon-like monster, while a series of comedic errors lead to a bunch of monsters, including Drac himself, to be transformed into humans. This sudden shift in dynamic is both hilarious and terrifying - Drac is no longer the suave, all-powerful man in command, Frankenstein is transformed into a hunk (something he is exaggeratedly vain about), and Blobby is now a literal blob of jello.
The source of conflict arises from the fact that Helsing’s machine is now broken and the mysterious orb that is capable of triggering the transformations can only be retrieved from a certain cave, the journey to which is extremely perilous. This allows the narrative to focus solely on Drac and Johnny’s dynamic, who have always had a rather strained relationship, with the status quo being completely flipped in this scenario. With Johnny enjoying his newfound monster powers and Drac being painfully aware of his limitations as a human, the duo work surprisingly well together, paving the way for earnest conversations about self-worth and family. The catch, of course, is the question of whether Johnny’s monstrosity can be reversed, as remaining in that vessel for too long would make him lose his innate humanity, and the narrative unfolds in fun, interesting ways to resolve that.
The absence of Adam Sandler among the voice cast, especially as he does not return to reprise the role of Dracula, admittedly feels out-of-place in the beginning. However, Hull manages to grow into the role quite well, adding an element of heartrending empathy to the way in which he re-evaluates his hesitation to accept Johnny as his family. The rest of the voice cast plays their respective roles fairly well, especially the core monsters who turn into humans, as these scenes provide a genuine streak of hilarity to the narrative as a whole.
While children, who are the core target demographic of Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, are bound to have a good time, the film is rather refreshing for adults as well, despite its many flaws. Although some parts feel rather formulaic and the experience uneven, Transformania has its merits. It's a tale that brims with heart as it looks into what the notions of found family are and what it means to be human.
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Hotel Transylvania: Transformania will be released exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on January 14, 2022. The film is 97 minutes long and is rated PG for some action and rude humor, including cartoon nudity.
- Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022)Release date: Jan 14, 2022