By: Kayla Caldwell
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA is a fun conclusion to a family film franchise that has always delivered guilt-free laughs, imaginative animation, and top-tier talent. Brian Hull is up to the seemingly large task of filling in for Adam Sandler, as far as voicing Dracula. He fit right in with talents like Fran Drescher, Keegan-Michael Key, Andy Samberg, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, and Selena Gomez. The overarching themes of loving yourself for who you are, and accepting others for who they are makes for a positive note in a difficult time.
In the - as far as we know - final iteration of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, Dracula (Hull) is ready to retire, but doesn’t want to give the keys to the kingdom to his doofy son-in-law, Johnny (Samberg). When Johnny finds out why Drax is hesitant to move forward, he goes to Van Helsing’s (Jim Gaffigan) basement and makes the ill-advised decision to use a device that can turn him into a monster, hoping it would make Drax like him. Before the night is over this magic gun has turned half the monsters into humans, Johnny into a monster, and then broken into pieces.
So now if the monster crew wants to get back to normal, it’s up to Mavis (Gomez) and Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) to find Johnny and Drax, and the crystal needed to fix the gun, before the changes become permanent. This is a fun, Freaky Friday type of gag, that allows for viewers to see what the fan-favorite monsters would look like as humans. Murray the mummy (Key), is a very short, jowl-y man. Wayne the Werewolf (Buscemi) looks like a hipster dad. Griffin the invisible man (Spade) is a tall, redhead with glasses, Frank (Brad Abrell) becomes a meathead Instagram model, Blobby (Genndy Tartakovsky) becomes a plate of Jell-O, and Drax loses his vampire teeth and develops a dad bod. Meanwhile, Johnny - in Samberg’s own words, is “basically, like, full Burning Man backpacker meets Godzilla.”
Their new forms make for plenty of silly bits, and sends the leads on a journey through a jungle. Drax is not appreciative of the human form, which is vulnerable to maladies like sunburn and bug bites, and lacks the ability to fly. With Johnny and Drax off together, they’re each forced to confront their issues with each other if they want to survive. The family fighting catharsis manages to hit home on a few points of getting along with tricky relatives, while also providing for plenty of laughs.
Even despite a big cast shakeup, with Hull filling in for Sandler’s Drax, and Abrell taking over Frankenstein, who had previously been voiced by Kevin James, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA feels just like the other three. It’s the same silliness, heart, and humor of the first three iterations. For fans that had been watching from the beginning, the fourth film is a nice conclusion while hinting at what the future would look like for those beloved characters. Gomez has said while promoting the film, that it has felt like she got to grow up with her character, Mavis. That kind of captures the heart of the HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA series, because even at their goofiest, they are still so wholesome and full of messaging about being yourself, and respecting others.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA continues the quality of the first four films, and delivers a nice send-off to the franchise. Even if you aren’t familiar with the series, it’s a fun, wholesome romp on its own. For fans of spooky meets cute, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA is a winter treat, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, beginning January 14, 2022.