Scary, merry band of monsters

Adam Sandler needs a hit movie to lift him out of his rut.

Two of his recent films - Jack And Jill (2011) and the commercial flop That's My Boy (2012) - were widely panned by critics.

Fortunately, the Hollywood comedian has got it right with the American box-office champ Hotel Transylvania. In this horror-themed animated comedy, he lends his voice to the lead character, Dracula, hamming it up with prominent monologues and one-liners.

Sandler's spoof of the infamous blood-sucking Count is a timely way to unwind after all the lovelorn angst that the conclusion of the Twilight movie franchise brought to the vampire subgenre.

And, if George Hamilton and Leslie Nielsen can have their farcical fun in Love At First Bite (1979) and Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995) respectively, why not Sandler?

The first feature film directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series), it gets its title from a top-end resort that Dracula owns and manages, for monsters of all kinds to vacation in and take a break from bothersome humans.

Dracula lives in the hotel with his only daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), who is all set to celebrate her 118th birthday - she's only a precocious teenager, going by the vampire calendar.

Mavis is curious to venture into the real world, beyond the confines of the hotel. The great lengths to which Dracula goes to protect her provoke much mirth. For example, he sets up a fake village with "scary" humans played by zombies on his staff list, so as to quell Mavis' interest in making human friends.

Of course, nothing ever goes as planned. Just when doting Dad thinks he has convinced his daughter never to make human contact again, a young backpacker named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) finds his way to Hotel Transylvania, assuming it to be a theme hotel.

Trying to cover up this human infiltration, which will certainly ruin the hotel's reputation, Dracula tries whatever he can to conceal Jonathan. But it's love at first sight when the backpacker and Mavis lock eyes - incidentally, the direct opposite of how a human girl falls for a male vampire in Twilight.

Like ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania derives humour aplenty from all things macabre. In one scene, Dracula makes Mavis her favourite dish - a stack of pancakes filled with writhing worms. And you don't want to know what the hotel's ghoulish guests get to eat at the buffet.

The animation here, while competent, pales in comparison to the visual feasts served up by other animated flicks this year, like Rise Of The Guardians and the forthcoming Wreck-It Ralph. But Hotel Transylvania makes up for this deficiency with breakneck pacing, some hilarious gags and loads of fun.

And with the vocal talents of Steve Buscemi (as Wayne the Werewolf), David Spade (Griffin the Invisible Man) and Cee Lo Green (as an oversized mummy named Murray), you'll find that there's never a dull moment in this hotel of horrors and laughter, even if the film itself doesn't rank among the best animated classics Hollywood has to offer.


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