“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”
The last thing you see before the “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” title card drops at the end of the film is a character shrugging his shoulders with a smile as if to say, “That’s what it is.” That’s a pretty good summary of the movie itself.
The fourth and final installment in a long-running 3DCG monster franchise, “Transformania” delivers what most viewers expect from a “Hotel Transylvania” movie: frenetic energy, physical comedy, and Dracula learning another lesson about acceptance.
This time around, the film also contains some meta elements that its young target audience probably won’t notice or care too much about.
The celebration that kicks off the action this time is the 125th anniversary of Hotel Transylvania. Dracula (Brian Hull, replacing franchise staple Adam Sandler), who saw his beloved daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) grow up within the walls of the establishment, is ready to give her the reins so that he can enjoy his retirement with his new love, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn).
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Or so he thinks. As much as Dracula believes in Mavis’ ability to make things work, he absolutely doesn’t trust her human disaster husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg), not to mess things up. One thing leads to another and Drac and Johnny essentially switch places – Drac becomes human and Johnny a monster – because, as the old saying goes, you can’t really know someone until you’ve walked through a kilometer instead.
In the case of “Transformania,” that mile is stretched on an adventure through the jungles of South America. It’s a setup that allows Drac, among other things, to suffer from sunlight in the most extreme ways a human can.
Young viewers who already have an affinity for the “Hotel Transylvania” film series will likely find enough to keep them entertained in this latest installment. The amount of havoc the normally clumsy but fairly harmless Johnny can wreak as a monster is impressive, and there are plenty of easy laughs to be had watching all the familiar monsters of Drac’s pack in their new human guises.
For parents, the fun of “Transformania” might come down to their attitude toward adults who never quite grow up. Johnny, a self-proclaimed slacker, is in heightened form here, even compared to previous “Hotel Transylvania” movies. Unless you already have a natural liking for the character – or feel the same epiphany as Drac over the course of the film – Johnny might be a bit too much, especially since he’s not the one who must show growth.
(PG, 2.5 out of 4 stars, 1:38)
Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times
Everything new becomes old again. In 1978, the year “Halloween” was released, the theatrical thriller “Deathtrap” opened on Broadway, with a plot (like its benchmark, “Sleuth”) about a desperate mystery writer tempted, mortally, by the persistent clichés of his chosen one. kind. Like many fabulously profitable breakouts, it was a contraption on its own, and it worked just good enough and no better, with a jolt or two between wisecracks.
In the genre of thriller-adjacent slasher films, 1996’s “Scream” operated in a similarly self-referential fashion. The gore amped up, it made its mark, directed by “Nightmare on Elm Street” master Wes Craven (as did the first three sequels). The “Scream” 2022 is dedicated to the late Craven. Directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin sprinkle homages to Craven’s cut and framing everywhere, starting with the introduction of the kitchen knives in the prologue.
As always, but more so, the characters talk like they’re participating in a slasher trivia contest. The dialogue is not a dialogue; it’s a Reddit channel, covering everything from “The Babadook” (“high horror”, it is said with admiration) to “Knives Out” to the percentage of sad faces from “reimaginings” of the franchise that capture everything from the original. Even if it wasn’t original.
Samantha (the excellent Melissa Barrera from “In the Heights”) is haunted by the memory of a major unpleasant adversary from previous films. The recurring homicides for which the fictional town of Woodsboro, California is now infamous are happening again. Barrera and Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Yellow Vests”) stand out among the new cast members.
When Neve Campbell’s Sydney Prescott first appears on screen, the audience that’s been there since Clinton took office collectively heaves a sigh of gratitude. Campbell’s light-hearted underplay has always been a lifeline for the “Scream” series. She knows better than to compete with the efforts around her.
Campbell reteams here with Courteney Cox, returning as morning show host and regret-filled bestselling author Gayle Weathers. David Arquette is back as Dewey, ex-sheriff, frequent Ghostface-stabbity-stab survivor. When the city starts racking up kills, again, these three come back to see what’s what and who to trust among the new players. The fictional “Stab” films play an important role in “Scream”, as they did in previous “Scream”. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t see in the trailer, or that you could guess just living on the same planet as the people who wrote the new movie.
If we had to do a franchise-reboot comparison: “Scream” lands halfway between 2018’s very good “Halloween” and the turgid follow-up “Halloween Kills.” In “Scream,” Jamie Lee Curtis is respectfully verified (I get that part), along with dozens of other slasher icons and brands. It’s sincere. But I wish this movie offered a little less running commentary and a little more to do – anything, really, to get off the treadmill of self-criticism and self-congratulation and actually go into a new place.
(R, 2 out of 4 stars, 1 hr 54 mins.)
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune