Directed by Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska and streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania concludes the series of four animated films that cast Dracula as a nervous father and the owner of a monster resort. This time around, the plot – about a ray gun that turns people into monsters, and vice versa – seems to recognize the need to bring characters out of their sluggishness.
“Drac” (Brian Hull, replacing Adam Sandler), has settled in with Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), a great-granddaughter of the famous monster hunter, Van Helsing. Mavis (Selena Gomez), the daughter of Drac and Ericka, has a child with a crazy human backpacker named Johnny (Andy Samberg). Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) roams the hotel basement. It’s his crystal-powered ray gun that turns Johnny into a dragon and turns Drac and his circle of monster fathers into humans.
Johnny embraces his dashing new form because Drac, who is usually overprotective, has said that only monsters can take over the hotel after he retires.
But Drac, now a flying human, is missing his mojo. He and Johnny go Scooby Doo grade to an Amazon cave in search of a new crystal for the now-broken blaster gun. Ericka, Mavis and the company give chase to an airship to help.
Giving sitcom-style family dynamics to monsters has long been standard in marquee animation projects, but these dynamics tend to make banal what is weird and intriguing about the characters. The series “Hotel Transylvania”, previously directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, usually compensates with a spirited visual imagination for its comedy, a lively sense of color and, of course, dance parties.
But despite some flourishes (like a mirror-like crystal cave), “Transformania” feels locked into the routine rhythms of its plot, making one-note jokes from its human incarnations. It even ends with a character shrugging.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. Look on Amazon.