(Genndy Tartakovsky, 2012)
Genndy Tartakovsky has been responsible for some of the greatest animated television of the last couple of decades. Most notably, he created Samurai Jack, a brilliant genre-mix (of sci-fi, action, samurai, western and comedy genres) marked by its great wit, brilliant use of genre clichés and stylishly simple animation. He followed that by creating the only truly worthwhile "Prequel" project for George Lucas' Star Wars series with his Clone Wars mini-cartoons. Since then, a few of his projects have fared less well both critically and commercially, and so we find him lending his talents to this Sony Animated film, one of an odd recent mini-wave of kids films utilising classic horror imagery and iconography (also including Frankenweenie and Para-Norman). It does contain the occasional flash of a trademark Tartakovsky visual wit, but crucially he had no real hand in the writing, and as such it plays as far less distinctive than any of the projects he actually originated himself.
The setting is clever - the hotel in question was created by Count Dracula as a haven for his many monster friends (the Werewolf, Frankenstein, Mummy, Yeti, Bigfoot, many zombies etc, all show up) but the narrative is as conventionally run along the lines of a predictable arc as the majority of family movies are at the moment. Here Dracula is trying to protect his only daughter Mavis from the terror of the human world as he sees it, while she as a typical teenager (118 years old) yearns for freedom and adventure. The arrival of a caricatured young American backpacker at the hotel adds complication; he and Mavis fall instantly in love, and Dracula must hide his true human nature from the other guests, and does do by making him up as "Johnny Stein", sixth cousin of Frank.
The best stuff here is in the detail; Tartakovsky throws a ceaseless stream of sight gags at his predictable, thin story, while a familiar voice cast never does anything particularly special or distinctive with their parts. There are a few nice references to the history of the horror genre and a great joke at the expense of Twilight late on, but generally this is the sort of animated film that reminds you of why the work of Pixar is cherished by so many.