The last time Adam Sandler got his hands on an animated film the result was the abysmal Eight Crazy Nights. It was a movie so crude and unnecessary that even Sandler die-hards refused to show it some love. His return to the animation well is Hotel Transylvania and while it shares many traits of his live action work (crude humor, silly voices, a large cast of C-list friends) the end result is innocuous and nowhere near a Jack and Jill or Grown Ups level disaster.

Working with animation veteran Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars), Sandler tackles the lead role of (obviously) Count Dracula. But this isn’t the infamous Dracula we already know, this one is less Bram Stoker and more of a bumbling everyman. Instead of hunting humans for blood he runs an isolated hotel strictly for monsters and the supernatural. Dracula’s young vampire daughter Mavis is getting older you see, and with an older body comes a curiosity to explore life outside of the hotel, specifically human interaction. As voiced by Selena Gomez, Mavis is saddled with some of the whiniest and degrading dialogue in “Hotel Transylvania,” all in the name of getting daddy Dracula’s attention for freedom.

The tranquility of this monster house is interrupted when human explorer Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles onto it by accident. After some typical movie miscommunication, we see that Jonathan is drawn to the monsters rather than scared of them. His attention is obviously centered on vampire Mavis and vice versa so you don’t need many guesses to know what overbearing Dracula will do next.

Sandler and his company of panhandling celebrity friends (Jon Lovitz, David Spade and Kevin James, just to name a few) make sure that Hotel Transylvania is devoid of any serious bite but while the edge may be long gone, the finished product is passable for adults and more entertaining for kids. Story beats are telegraphed from the very beginning but it’s not a slog to get to the finish line. The film does have fun and clever moments, more than most Sandler productions these days.

Grade: B-

Rated: PG (for some rude humor, action and scary images)

Hotel Transylvania opens in theaters on September 28, 2012 and was screened at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

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