Producer: Alice Dewey Goldstone Directors: Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska Screenplay: Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo and Genndy Tartakovsky Cast: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Brian Hull, Fran Drescher, Brad Abrell and Asher Blinkoff Distributor: Amazon Studios
Brian Hull replaces Adam Sandler as the voice of Count Dracula in this fourth installment of the “Hotel Transylvania” series, but the kids at whom it’s aimed won’t notice, and their parents won’t care. Otherwise it’s like old home week for the cast, most of whom reprise their characters (though Brad Abrell substitutes for Kevin James as Frankenstein), but, as the subtitle indicates, in changed forms.
The twist in the plot comes from the fact that the human in the ensemble—Johnny (Andy Samberg), the extrovert surfer-dude slacker who married Drac’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez)—becomes a monster, while Drac and the members of his ghoulish pack become human
The switch occurs because Drac, while willing to retire from the hotel business to spend time with his new wife Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the great-granddaughter of his longtime foe Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), balks at the thought of turning over his beloved establishment to both Mavis and Johnny, since the guy has so many ideas for improvements. So he tells Johnny a fib, saying he’s prevented from bequeathing it to anyone who isn’t a monster. Van Helsing offers heartbroken Johnny a solution: he’s invented a “monsterfication” ray gun that can turn any human into a monster, and Johnny happily agrees to be the guinea pig.
Naturally the experiment goes awry. Not only does Johnny become a monster, but Drac is turned into a human, and so are werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), Invisible Man Griffin (David Spade), Mummy Murray (Keegan-Michael Kay), Frankenstein and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher) and mute Blobby, though the latter simply reverts to his “natural” state as a gelatin dessert. There are other embarrassment, too: after all, the Invisible Man turns out to be naked, and others are not exactly prime physical specimens.
Obviously this situation can’t be allowed to persist, and so Drac and Johnny embark on an odyssey to find the crystal that can re-energize the ray gun and reverse its effects. Soon the others will follow them. The business is made more complicated by the fact that Johnny continues to evolve into an ever more ferocious beast, eventually winding up as something like a roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex. That doesn’t stop father- and son-in-law from finally bonding, of course.
“Transformania” pretty much defangs whatever wit the original film possessed, but as a cinematic babysitter it will probably do the trick. The animation (the work of the Sony Animation team—the movie was made for theatrical distribution, but sold to Amazon after the pandemic delayed release) is vivid, the action hectic, and the voice work dependable despite the replacements. Lynn Hobson’s editing keeps things moving right along, resulting in a trim ninety-eight minute running-time, and Mark Mothersbaugh’s music adds to the frantic feel. The result should certainly please the young target audience who embraced the previous three installments (as well as a spin-off television series), and there are a few stray gags that might cause adults to chuckle; the transition of Frankenstein’s monster into a handsome, preening ladies’ man has a certain kick.
The “Hotel Transylvania” franchise certainly reaches a natural stopping point with this episode, but that hardly ensures it’s the series finale. It would probably take a stake in the heart to end this profitable vampire’s tale.