On January 14, the latest installment in the Hotel Transylvania movie series premiered on Amazon Prime. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is filled with the same wacky hijinks, jokes, and lovable characters that made the first one and the subsequent sequels so enjoyable. The fourth movie centers around Dracula, who is ready to make a big change in his life by retiring from the hotel and passing it down to his daughter Mavis and her husband Johnny. Mavis overhears this and tells Johnny, who is elated because he thinks this means Dracula has finally accepted him into the family. However, when the realization hits Dracula that giving them the hotel means that Johnny could potentially destroy the hotel and the reputation Dracula worked so hard to build, what is a vampire to do? Simple: blame it on monster real estate laws that prohibit a human from owning monster property. Thus, the hijinks ensue: Johnny decides to become a monster with the help of Van Helsing, Dracula tries to change him back so Mavis will not find out and ends up changing the monster gang (including himself) into humans. However, after the transformation, the weapon is broken and the rest of the film is taken up with fixing the device. Our heroes embark on a journey, and one metaphor about a marshmallow later, everything is back to normal. I will not say the movie is bad nor good; like the other sequels in the beloved franchise, it is underwhelming and mediocre.
To begin with, the plot was poorly written. While the quest to fix up the machine took up the majority of the film, I believe it was time misspent. The real conflict should have been on fixing the estranged relationship between Johnny and Dracula permanently. While the two became friendly over the course of the series it is obvious Dracula simply tolerates Johnny. While the idea of having the monsters become human and Johnny become a monster is entertaining and dare I say, smart, they did not use it to its full potential. The switching of places between the protagonists could have been better used to understand one another, especially in Dracula’s case. The quest should have been a secondary element and used as an excuse for Dracula and Johnny to bond; one scene with a heart-to-heart does not cut it. Because of the time spent on things other than the initial conflict of the film, the resolution feels inorganic and unexceptional. To be frank, the entire end scene feels like it was copied and pasted from literally any other film. The transformation of Johnny into “Johnzilla” was completely unoriginal. It would have been better to see Johnny genuinely wounded and heartbroken that he will never be good enough for Dracula than to see him turning into a mindless monster. That would have made for a more substantial resolution between the two than Dracula comparing Johnny to a marshmallow. As a result of the way they chose to write the ending, there were no real stakes that made me care about it.
Another faux pas is that the plot has been done before, quite a few times in fact, for example the second Wreck it Ralph movie (Ralph Breaks the Internet). The two are eerily similar, Ralph feels disconnected from Penelope, Johnny feels like he isn’t part of the family. The steering wheel of Penelope’s game breaks so she and Ralph travel to a foreign environment to get the missing piece, the exact same thing happens in Hotel Transylvania Transformania. Ralph turns into a horrifying monster with limited speech capacity? Johnny does the same thing. While details differ between movies the key elements of the plots are the exact same. So not only is it imitative of the former but an equally poor iteration.
If they wanted to mimic a movie to show the strain between Johnny and Dracula’s relationship and the eventual understanding of one another, they should have chosen A Goofy Movie. The latter features the perfect development of the father-son dynamic that it is clear Johnny wants. In addition, it would not have required much re-writing of the initial script. The adventure plot could have stayed the same but included more bonding between the two characters. Moreover, much of the conflict that was presented in the movie has already been resolved or addressed in previous movies from the franchise. Dracula has seemingly accepted Johnny as part of his life, and the monsters have all accepted Johnny as part of their family. The writers went for a simple cash grab with this movie and re-visited what they thought would create enough conflict to last them an hour and a half without even using it as the main conflict.
The transformation was a good idea but poorly executed, much like the rest of the film. The characters remain stagnant considering the ending is similar to the first movie; no one really grew as people aside from Erika, who is not even a main character. While the movies are good if you have nothing else to watch, I would not seek them out for quality content.