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Adam Sandler scores when heard, not seen in 'Hotel Transylvania'

Published Sep. 26, 2012

By Steve Persall

Times Movie Critic

Here's some good career advice for Adam Sandler: Don't show your face in movies for a while.

That isn't meant rudely, just a practical observation after enjoying his voice-only turn in the animated comedy Hotel Transylvania. Toss in the laughs Sandler earned voicing a monkey in Zookeeper and bad memories of the Zohans, Jacks and Jills he played in the flesh aren't quite as vivid.

Hotel Transylvania casts Sandler as Dracula, though more silly than scary, with his nasal tone wrapped around a decent Bela Lugosi impression. This vampire count doesn't bite anyone as proprietor of a luxurious resort for monsters on vacation. He's also a helicopter parent to Mavis (Selena Gomez), who wants nothing more for her 118th birthday than to visit the outside world.

Dracula has taught Mavis that mortals are the real monsters, eager to kill any supernatural creatures of the night. Like any deca-teenager Mavis won't listen to Dad's advice, especially after meeting human cutie Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a backpacking traveler. Dracula must juggle planning Mavis' birthday party, realizing she's not his little girl anymore, and disguising Jonathan as a monster so his guests won't be frightened away.

Nestled in the release calendar between ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania is a gentle, goofy change from those cartoons' more seriously eerie styles. There's nothing here to give small children nightmares. Director Genndy Tartakovsky cut his fangs on animated TV shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory, with the same benign anarchy displayed here.

Most of the laughs arise from Tartakovsky's cheeky take on famous monsters of filmland, funneled through the ordinariness of vacationing. The hotel's bellhops are zombies, and talking shrunken heads hang from doorknobs urging housekeeping service or don't disturb. A continental breakfast includes bagels with scream cheese.

The guests are just as punny, voiced by Sandler's pals. Frankenstein (Kevin James) is a schlub bowing to the demands of his bride (Fran Drescher). Wayne the wolfman (Steve Buscemi) is the sly type, and Murray the mummy (Cee Lo Green) is all wrapped up in love. Tartakovsky keeps it simple, stupid and satisfying, although his animation doesn't do anything special with the 3-D gimmick, so spend less and get practically the same in return.

Hotel Transylvania doesn't raise the bar for animation or comedy but it's fun, and nice for once to have a different reason to say "boo" after an Adam Sandler flick.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

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