Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
For me, these 'Hotel Transylvania' movies are all pretty decent, but they do have a tendency to slide downhill as they keep going. While I still really enjoy those first two, there was a certain overall predictability to 'Summer Vacation' and 'Transformania' that give the series a sort of unoriginality; and I give the series huge credit for the initial idea. That first film is STILL my favourite of the bunch.
Since this is the fourth title to this series I'll TRY to keep things somewhat clear with characters and such, since a lot has happened since the first movie. Let's start with the underlying story largely being about Dracula's daughter, Mavis, falling in love with a human named Johnny. In the first film they meet, in the second film they're married and have a kid, and then the third film kind of jumps to being a bit more about Dracula. This one goes back to the relationship, but mostly focuses on Johnny; a character who I can definitely see being sort of annoying to some.
This one opens with the monster celebrating the 125th anniversary of the hotel. Dracula (Brian Hull) secretly has intentions of finally retiring, and giving the hotel to his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez). However, overhearing her father's plans, Mavis tells Johnny (Andy Samberg) the news, thereby overwhelming Johnny, who spills his renovation plans to Drac. Worried about what will become of his beloved hotel, Drac then tells Johnny a fib about a real-estate law that only allows monsters to own the hotel. Johnny is understandably disappointed, but may be able to get some help from Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan - who we met in 'Summer Vacation' as more of a nemesis).
Helsing has created a sort of ray gun that can turn humans into monsters and monsters in humans, so Johnny figures if he can be transformed, he won't have to worry about that real-estate law. Things work out for him, as he's changed into a monstrous dragon-like creature, but soon Drac finds out and tries to change him back. This, however, backfires, turning Drac human. The gun ends up breaking and requiring a special crystal, located somewhere in South America, to work again. Of course, the real catch is also the race against time, as there will be a point where the transformation is permanent.
This was originally meant to be released theatrically, but just as a lot of movies suffered through Covid, plans changed, and the distribution rights were eventually sold to Amazon. I can find a lot of flaws in it from my persopective, but really, this is still just a healthy dose of fun for the family. To make it even better, it's an Amazon original you DON'T have to pay to watch, making things feel much more accessible (as long as you have Prime). My only real criticisms lie in it being another race against time to fix a "spell". That doesn't make it bad, it just makes it predictable, and as far as I'm concerned, 'Shrek' still did it best.
For those looking for Drac's friends here, they're all back as well. Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi) and his wife, Wanda (Molly Shannon); Griffin, the Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Frank (Brad Abrell) and his wife, Eunice (Fran Drescher). That said, fans will notice that Adam Sandler and Kevin James have been replaced, and that's a bit of a bummer, considering the buddy-buddy cast it has been up until this point. I'm not sure that there's official word on why there was no return, and some suspect their deals with Netflix. However, if this was meant to originally be theatrical, that still leaves questions.
Anyway, I think if you DO like all three of the originals, then this one isn't all too much of a stretch away from them. They're all fun and generally innocent family flicks that make for a pretty solid marathon, especially around the Halloween season. These could be movies I still turn to for a nice cheering up, even if I don't think they're all so wonderful, or even a bit cliched. This one was no different than the third for me. I didn't think it was altogether special, but I'm not about to tell people they need to avoid it because it's terrible. At worst, it's simply the weakest (maybe?) of the four, and at best, it's a bit of family fun in these hard times.
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