Hotel Transylvania: Transformania Review: A serviceable, but unremarkable sequel
The Hotel Transylvania series returns on Prime Video with its latest entry, Transformania, treading familiar territory for the franchise that somewhat saved by its comedic moments.
The film brings fans back to Hotel Transylvania for another adventure that follows Dracula (voiced by Brian Hull) just as he’s about to announce this retirement and that he’s giving the hotel to Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) and Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg). However, after the news leaks and Jonathan’s overexcitement gives Dracula cold feet, he backs out and tells Jonathan that he can’t give him the hotel because he’s not a monster. This causes Jonathan to seek the help of Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) and he ends up turning Jonathan into a dragon-like monster. However, while trying to turn Jonathan back before Mavis finds out, Dracula ends up turning himself and his monster friends into humans forcing him and Jonathan to go an unexpected adventure to change them back.
While the general premise of Transformania feels right at home with this series, there’s just something lesser and kind of off about this entry. It just feels like one of those animated sequels that’s made with little care or ambition and is the definition of a franchise on autopilot. Maybe it’s that some notable voices have been swapped out, namely Adam Sandler as Dracula. Maybe it’s that the animation somehow looks cheaper, perhaps because Transformania was forced to jump the theatrical ship for a lifeline that led to Prime Video. There’s certainly something off about Transformania that makes it a weak entry, but it still manages to be a fun ride.
There are definitely parts of Transformania that feel standard for the series, mainly the whole Dracula being annoyed with Jonathan schtick, but seeing their roles flipped is a blast. Although Jonathan is transformed into a giant monster, his energetic and friendly personality remains and the inadvertent slapstick comedy between him and Dracula is great. Samberg manages to be one of the best things about Transformania for the continuous blast of positivity he gives Jonathan at every turn and it now has a cartoony body to go with it.
With Dracula having his powers and sense of immortality removed, he’s pretty much vulnerable to everything as him and Jonathan navigate a tropical jungle and it’s an absolute joy to see him basically running the gauntlet of human struggle. From a nasty mosquito swarm to his energy and strength having lower limits, Dracula becoming human throws him off his game in incredibly funny ways, especially when you add Jonathan’s antics. The sequence of Dracula and Jonathan on the monster plain run by the Gremlins is easily a big comedic highlight and watching his annoyance about being human grow throughout the film is constantly funny.
As for the rest of the monsters being turned into humans, they have some fun moments as well. There is something kind of fun about seeing Dracula’s friends in their human form as Wayne (voiced by Steve Buscemi) can now shirk his parenting responsibilities since his werewolf kids don’t recognize him and the team instantly must solve the problem of Griffin (voiced by David Spade) being naked now that he’s completely visible. Also, Blobby (voiced by Genndy Tartakovsky) being turned to literal Jell-O is perfect and offers plenty of great gags.
Overall, though, the cuts back to Mavis and Dracula friends simply serve as decent distractions from the main plot that ultimately lead to a very rushed third act. The film just suddenly decides to have Jonathan and Dracula have a real conversation and then barrel into a final act showdown. The themes and messages centered on Dracula being comfortable with Jonathan aren’t exactly unique for this franchise and while there are some strong visual gags in the film’s big finale, it just barrels through its plot with low stakes and very few memorable moments. The entire final sequence is literally a relay race teamwork moment that’s been done dozen of times and the true passing of the torch just doesn’t have any strong emotion or satisfaction behind it.
While Transformania is a pretty unremarkable venture back to Hotel Transylvania because of its familiarity and lack of ambition, it’s a serviceable enough sequel with some fun animated hilarity that the whole family can enjoy at home.