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posted: 9/27/2012 5:00 AM

Nothing 'awesome' about awful 'Hotel'

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  • Vampire Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) shares a "zing" with Jonathan (Andy Samberg) while Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) watches in "Hotel Transylvania." Hey, why is Jonathan the only one showing his teeth?

    Vampire Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) shares a "zing" with Jonathan (Andy Samberg) while Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) watches in "Hotel Transylvania." Hey, why is Jonathan the only one showing his teeth?

  • Video: Hotel Transylvania trailer


Here comes a generic, 3-D animated family comedy so desperate for laughs that it actually has a mummy cut loose with sandy flatulence. That's in addition to hitting us with a crunched-testicles sight gag on a knight's suit of armor.


Then, Genndy Tartakovsky's "Hotel Transylvania" tries to fit a formula protective father/rebellious daughter story into the fantastic world of classic monsters without any respect or understanding for that world.

Come on, now. Even kids who haven't seen the "Twilight" movies know that vampires aren't living beings. So when that old bat Dracula shouts at his teenage vampire daughter Mavis, "I want you to live your life!" is he being sarcastic? Or dumb?

Granted, Columbia Pictures' "Hotel Transylvania" has been mounted as a kids' movie in which the darkest of live-action monsters have been translated into lovable, misunderstood extras from a Scooby-Doo episode.

What should we expect? Pixar?

Back in 1895, the Count (Adam Sandler, recycling a cartoony Bela Lugosi) builds the Grand Floridian of monster hotels for his fiendish friends as a secret haven far away from awful humans who only want to kill them.

A century later, Drac has promised Mavis (a vocally listless Selena Gomez, taking over the role from Miley Cyrus) that she can go into the human world on her 118th birthday. With that date looming, Drac hosts a killer blowout party, in part to persuade Mavis to stay.

Everyone shows up. Frankenstein's monster (Kevin James) in stitches. Murray the Mummy (Cee Lo Green) in a wrap. Wayne the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi) in fur. The Invisible Man (David Spade) in nothing much to see.

Also in attendance: a giant yeti so tall we can only glimpse his ankles. Two fleas on their honeymoon. Frankenstein's bride (a wasted Fran Drescher), Wayne's wife Wanda (Molly Shannon) and Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz). The only thing missing is the Crypt Kicker 5 singing "The Transylvania Twist."

Drac panics when a human hiker named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles through the front door, and thinks the hotel is throwing a swell costume party. He learns quickly that the monsters are real!

But he has already connected eyeballs with the desirable Mavis, who says they share a certain "zing."

Drac goes into emergency mode by disguising Jonathan as Frankenstein's cousin -- twice or three times removed, and stitched back on. Drac can't let anyone know a human has breached the hotel's security.

"Hotel Transylvania" clearly wants to throw away the rules and create its own reality in which goofy monsters merge with a Romeo and Juliet romantic subplot.

But Tartakovsky, director of 2001's little-seen "Samurai Jack," doesn't do anything imaginative enough to take advantage of this no-rules philosophy.

The witless, pedestrian screenplay, credited to Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, does Tartakovsky no favors. In fact, the script could be crippled just by removing the single word "awesome."

Here's a sample:

"Awesome!" Jonathan says.

"This is awesome!" Mavis says.

"Awesomeness!" Jonathan says.

"This is awesome!" Mavis says, again.

"That is awesome!" Jonathan says.

"Check out these awesome costumes!" Jonathan says.

" ... my awesome people!" Jonathan says.

This movie contains more dialogue just like this. Unfortunately, it's the only awesome part of "Hotel Transylvania."

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