Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation
Even monsters need to get away from it all sometimes -- and if your little monsters are asking to get away to the movie theater to see Hotel Transylvania, check our review from Common Sense Media to find out if they're old enough!
Rating: Ages 7 and up: ON -- Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
What parents need to know. Parents need to know that Hotel Transylvania is a good introductory "monster movie" for little kids -- the monsters are tame, and the story focuses on Dracula and his daughter as she comes of age (118!). The only potentially frightening elements are Dracula's "angry face," which he flashes when he can't control his rage (it only lasts a few seconds, but it's a bit demonic looking), and a mob scene that puts a central character in danger. There's also a backstory that involves humans killing the main character's mother, but it's handled delicately. Language includes insults/rude words like "stupid" and "shut up," and there's some innuendo, flirting, and a quick kiss between a 118-year-old vampire hybrid and a 21-year-old guy (hey, it worked in Twilight!).
What's the story? More than a century ago, a grieving Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) decided to build a human-proof castle called HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, where monsters could stay and -- more important -- he could raise his half-vampire, half-human daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) without exposing her to the danger of humans. Fast forward to the present day, and Mavis is turning 118 (but looks 18), and "Drac" has planned a huge birthday celebration. As the hotel fills with Mavis' many monster aunties and uncles -- like werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Frankenstein (Kevin James), Mummy Griffin (Cee-Lo Green), and the Invisible Man (David Spade) -- an unexpected visitor arrives in the form of 21-year-old Jonathan (Andy Samberg), a solo backpacker who somehow stumbles across the supposedly untraceable castle. Not wanting to alarm his guests, Drac puts Jonathan in costume and forces him to pretend that he's Frankenstein's younger cousin. What Dracula doesn't count on is Mavis and Jonathan falling for each other.
Is it any good? Although its premise is much better than the execution, Hotel Transylvania is just palatable enough to tolerate for parents. Little kids too young for the genuine spookiness of Monster House and ParaNorman will particularly enjoy how harmless the monsters are (save for Dracula's occasional rage face) and how sweet the relationship is between Dracula and his daddy's girl, Mavis. Gomez is well-cast as a naive adolescent daughter who just wants a chance to discover the world beyond the hotel, and Samberg is like a young Sandler as the bumbling-but-sweet human who ends up stealing not only Mavis' heart but befriending an entire circle of monster pals.
That's not to say that there aren't some issues with Hotel Transylvania; a Pixar masterpiece it's not. The word "zing" (as in the romantic spark between couples) quickly becomes tedious, as do some of the repetitive jokes about the werewolf cubs' poop and the Bride of Frankenstein's hen-pecking (she's voiced by Fran Drescher, of course). But despite the tiny missteps, kids -- and they, after all, are the movie's target audience -- will relate to Mavis, laugh at Dracula and his friends, and be completely invested in this monster mash of an animated comedy.
What families can talk about.
--Families can talk about who Hotel Transylvania is intended for. It's about monsters that have been in many horror movies, but it's not as scary as some other animated movies. How are the monsters kid-friendly?
--Can you think of other movies that feature an overprotective father? How does Hotel Transylvania compare?
--Why are monster movies popular? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?