Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Vamp, Revamp, and Flush Away Your Franchise
Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania is the final film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise. With Genndy Tartakovsky no longer directing (he co-writes and executive produces this time around) and Adam Sandler and Kevin James not returning (Brian Hull and Brad Abrell now voice Dracula and Frankenstein), Transformania takes an awkward step back from the previous three films.
Despite some character designs (Bela in the second film, the Kraken in the third) and some tremendous end credit animations that are done in a very recognizable Tartakovsky style (think Dexter’s Lab or Powerpuff Girls), the films are mediocre at best and yet became a billion dollar franchise.
Hull and Abrell do a decent job matching their voices to the Drac and Frank characters. You may not have noticed the characters were voiced by someone else if you hadn’t known beforehand. However, the animation looks noticeably different. Maybe new directors Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon are to credit for that. Kluska was a storyboard artist on Hotel Transylvania 2 and 3 while Drymon was an executive producer of Adventure Time and was a storyboard artist on The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.
The film was also moved around several times thanks to COVID and the pandemic. Sony Pictures Releasing eventually nixed the film’s theatrical run and sold distribution rights to Amazon Studios. This is the only Hotel Transylvania film to be released directly to a streaming platform.
Considering that this is the fourth film, Transformania basically rewrites several characters to an extent that it ignores key details from other films. Johnny is now akin to Homer Simpson since he is dumber than he has ever been here. He had a stoner or frat boy with a heart of gold kind of vibe about him originally. He was very mellow by nature, but had seen a good chunk of the world and knew more than his behavior let on. He had stories even though he was young and he was likeable. Transformania turns him into a dumb and unfunny dork that is borderline offensive due to how annoying he is.
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Dracula has lost whatever made him somewhat charming in the previous three films, as well. In Transformania, he’s looking to settle down with Ericka and retire from running the hotel. The intention is to give the hotel to Mavis and Johnny, but all of a sudden Dracula hates Johnny. The first three films are built around how close Johnny and Dracula become. Now Dracula just finds Johnny unbearable.
Teach a Monster to Scare...
After establishing in the second film that Dennis is part vampire and has powers, that concept is totally erased in Transformania. Dracula hypnotizes Dennis in the beginning of the film and he remains that way for the bulk of the film without ever utilizing any sort of power or doing anything remotely relevant.
Instead of downright telling Johnny that he can’t stand him, Dracula lies and says that he can’t leave the hotel in the hands of a human; it can only be inherited by monsters. Johnny then discusses the matter with Abraham Van Helsing who uses his Monsterfication Ray to turn Johnny into a giant lizard-like monster. But the ray can also turn monsters into humans. Once Dracula discovers what Johnny has done, he attempts to turn Johnny back before Mavis finds out. The plan backfires and Dracula gets hit with the ray and is turned human. His friends Wayne, Griffin, Murray, and Frankenstein are also turned human. If a cure isn’t found, the results may be permanent.
The highlight of the film is the transformation sequences since they are noticeably inspired by the horror film genre; specifically An American Werewolf in London. The end credits sequence is also done in a similar style to the first three films, so that sequence is fairly entertaining as well.
Transformania otherwise feels like a downgrade all around and the bar wasn’t all the high to begin with. As expected, there is a dancing sequence that may or may not be something you look forward to. None of the gags come off as humorous as every character mostly seems to be aiming to be more obnoxious than the other. The “fun” lies within seeing the monster characters as humans. The most notable is Griffin who has been totally invisible until now.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania had a lot of obstacles relating to its release and after viewing the film you can understand why. It’s a lukewarm sendoff that mostly feels like a lethargic attempt to recapture its former glory. It’s built around an entertaining concept that it doesn’t fully capitalize on. It ultimately obliterates character traits for trite gags and cliché punch lines.
© 2022 Chris Sawin