‘Hotel Transylvania: Transformania’ is confusing, uncreative end to beloved franchise

Illustration of the main characters from Hotel Transylvania 4.
Cynthia Shi/Staff

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Grade : 2.0/5.0

The fourth and final film of the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”  offers a dissatisfying conclusion to the story of Mavis (Selena Gomez), Dracula (Brian Hull) and Johnny (Andy Samberg). The film is packed with clichés about love and reconciliation as well as predictable adventure plots that prove the film’s producers have run out of ingenuity. Streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video since Jan. 14, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformia” is a mediocre film that struggles to deliver anything entertaining or meaningful.

Like the prior three films in the series, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is about reconciling tensions within a different generations of a family. This particular film centers heritage and the relationship between a father and his son-in-law. Though the previous three films have already minutely covered Dracula and Johnny’s difficult reconciliation, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” simply brings this tension back, a clear indication of the film’s lazy writing.

In an unsuccessful attempt to justify the recycling of old themes, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” introduces a laser beam that turns Johnny into a monster, while Dracula and the other monsters transform into humans. For fans of the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise, the invention of this laser beam clearly subverts the logic of the entire series; if Johnny had been a monster in the first place, Dracula would have little issue with his identity as a human being and the first three films would have never happened at all.

Furthermore, this identity-switching experience neither exacerbates nor ameliorates the father-son conflict between Dracula and Johnny — it simply feels irrelevant. It also doesn’t help characters grow, as many characters such as Dracula feel genuinely happy to return to monster mode and seem to have few takeaways from their time in human form. In addition, the film’s clichéd laser beam invention and the identity-swapping storyline lack humor; apart from their awkwardness, they surely will not make audiences laugh. 

The film also employs many amateurish settings. For example, characters embark upon an adventure in a South American jungle. This location is entirely random and difficult to account for, except that it seems the easiest and most viable option for unimaginative screenwriters. Perhaps it is intended as a nod to the film’s streaming platform, Amazon, which bears the same name to the jungle.

 The film’s lethargic writing is primarily highlighted through the ignorance of its female characters. The narrative revolves around its male characters, while frequently leaving out the female characters. Identity-switching does not happen to Mavis or Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). They do not receive an intriguing plot line — their participation in the male characters’ adventure in the jungle seems unnecessary, especially when Mavis should have stayed behind as the potential heiress to the hotel.

The voice cast saves the film from total boredom and offers precious amusement. Andy Samberg’s voice performance as Johnny remains hilarious — he vividly delivers otherwise platitudinal lines. Brian Hull, who picks up the role for Dracula from Adam Sandler, does a decent job in sustaining Dracula’s meticulous character. Selena Gomez also manages to capture the energetic, considerate character of Mavis within her character’s limited lines.

Ultimately, the resolution of “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is the film’s only success. Dracula and Johnny’s final reconciliation lands naturally and concretely when they spend time sitting down and talking patiently with one another. For example, Dracula finally trusts Johnny with his hotel when he appreciates Johnny’s hard work and sincere intentions, which he has been wishfully ignoring. Johnny also forgives Dracula’s doubts and lies when he has a better picture of his responsibilities as the hotel’s successor. While the majority of the film is uninteresting and confusing, the resolution manages to be touching.

Fantastic films rarely have even better sequels — “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” is no exception to this rule of thumb.  Given this assumption, the film is rather tolerable despite its formulaic writing and recycled themes. At least it ends the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise in an uncreative, but acceptable way.

Contact William Xu at [email protected].