The second week of January brought us the latest installment within the Hotel Transylvania world: Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. Released exclusively on Amazon Prime, the film is not playing in any theaters. COVID-19 caused Sony Pictures to push back the original distribution of the film from October 2021 to January 2022 and sell the distribution rights of the movie to Amazon Prime Video. Other changes from the first three movies include Adam Sandler being replaced by Brian Hull as the voice of Count Dracula, along with the recasting of the voice actors for Frank and Winnie.
So, how did the latest monster-run animated feature turn out, and should this be the last part of the franchise?
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Directors: Jennifer Kluska, Derek Drymon
Release: January 14, 2022 (Amazon Prime)
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania begins with Count Drac’s impending retirement and his decision to pass the torch to his vampire daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), and her human husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg). Count Drac panics and lies to Johnny about a fake “monster real estate law” that would prevent him from taking ownership of his prized hotel. Johnny, always striving to please his father-in-law, uses the “monsterification ray” created by Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) to turn into a monster.
Transformania takes a turn as Drac and friends accidentally get transformed into humans. There are some memorable gags in this sequence, like the revelation that Griffin (David Spade) walks around naked all the time. The supporting cast pulls a lot of weight in Transformania, while Drac and Johnny have more serious moments on their journey to reverse the ray’s effects. A good portion of the middle section drags on until the moment where Drac’s secret is revealed and Johnny loses his humanness to the monster he’s been transformed into.
The climax of the film is very predictable – even for a children’s movie. Drac confesses that Johnny is part of his family, allowing Johnny to be turned back into his original human self. It’s touching, sure, but feels repetitive considering the work the first two movies did.
Hotel Transylvania and Hotel Transylvania 2 focused on the tensions between humans and monsters. It worked well in both films because these themes were still fresh and the franchise was new. In the fourth movie, it feels like there wasn’t enough to keep it going so the creators constantly add more conflict between Drac and Johnny to reach a 90-minute run-time. Sadly this pushes Mavis and her son Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) to the sidelines. There isn’t a great balance for the development of the characters; Drac and Johnny learn a lot from their experience being turned into either a monster or humans but the other characters are just there for some laughs.
While I didn’t enjoy Hotel Transylvania: Transformania as much as I was hoping, I think it ends on a good note for finishing up the series. The hotel has been rebuilt to blend both Count Drac and Johnny’s visions and human/monster relations are stronger than ever. Honestly, I hope the Hotel Transylvania films are finished and no more are being made because I can’t imagine what direction any new features would be about. That being said, I think there is definitely room for a spin-off mini-series (think DreamWorks’ Shrek’s Swamp Stories) featuring the hotel and its eclectic cast of characters.
I largely enjoyed the first three Hotel Transylvania movies. These films take the old Hollywood monster tropes and turn them into something goofy and low-stakes (pun intended). They have a decent meaning of celebrating and accepting differences, and what it means to be a family. While it can be a bit repetitive for four movies to rehash similar themes, the core plot and the addition of new characters have carried the middle two films. I particularly liked the third movie (Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) for its discussion of parents getting remarried, something that a lot of children might experience. However, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania falls flat and makes me hope that Sony decides against making more of these movies.