Directors: Derek Drymon, Jennifer Kluska
Writers: Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Brian Hull, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Keegan Michael-Key, Kathryn Hahn
Editor: Lynn Hobson
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, the fourth film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise, is just as funny, charming and heartwarming as the rest. With a straightforward but engaging plot, rendered in vivid animation, it follows the classic beats of a road trip adventure, in which unwitting co-travellers forge a deep bond by the end.
The film begins with Count Dracula (Brian Hull, taking over the role from Adam Sandler) celebrating the 125th anniversary of his titular hotel, deciding to retire and hand it over to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg). Before he makes the big announcement at a party, however, he begins to have second thoughts. The differences between him and Johnny run deeper than just monster vs human. Drac is staid, fastidious and a little uptight, while Johnny is chaotic, exuberant and has a tendency to get on people's nerves. When he fails to go through with the plan, a hurt Johnny transforms himself into a monster with the help of hotel guest Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), hoping to change the Count's mind. In the chaos that follows, Drac and his friends, Frankenstein (Brad Abrell, taking over the role from Kevin James), Wayne the wolfman (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the invisible man (David Spade) and Murray the mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) are transformed into human versions of themselves. The movie has fun crafting each new character's look. While Johnny is now a dragon, double his original size, with wings, claws and fiery breath, Drac is now a pale imitation of his original self, with a potbelly and thinning hairline. Frankenstein gets the best deal — he's now a male model with the vanity to match.
Drac and Johnny must travel to South America to find a rare crystal and rebuild the shattered 'Monsterficiation' device that transformed them in the first place. Their long journey gives the team of animators the chance to craft some gorgeous and visually inventive landscapes around the two characters who gradually find themselves in reversed roles. Johnny is now stronger, faster and more proficient, while Drac, having lost his powers, is now prone to uniquely human irritants such as sunburn, and mosquito bites. In one of the movie's most heartwarming moments, however, he discovers being a human has its bright spots as he's now able to enjoy the sunshine, something that would have harmed his vampire self. He and Johnny begin to understand each other's point of view better, which makes for some heartfelt moments.
The voice cast is excellent throughout, with Gomez's dry, deadpan style of humour a refreshing contrast to the rest of the film's slapstick comedy. A secret that Drac is hiding lends the film some tension as the anticipation of it being revealed builds, but Transformania is ultimately a sweet, low-stakes film with plenty to laugh about.
Recommendation in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video