With the studios putting out their scary movies in time for Hallowe’en it’s only fair that they terrify the kids too, and Sony and Disney ( who would think they’d get on this site?) wheel out their monster romps.
First Up is Hotel Transylvania written by Peter Baynham an unsung hero of British comedy whose credits include The Day Today, Brass Eye and It’s Alan Partridge. But since his move to writing Hollywood studio films his output has been somewhat patchy. For every ‘Borat’ there’s an ‘Arthur’ ( and having Russell Brand in it can’t have helped). For every ‘Arthur Christmas’ ( his big Crimbo animation hit last year) there is, unfortunately, Hotel Transylvania. Here, Adam Sandler, mercifully not seen but still heard, voices Dracula, a single parent who, with his one hundred and eighteen year old daughter, has opened up a sanctuary for monsters and their families wanting to get away from the threat of being discovered by humans. That is until a surfer dude style traveller stumbles upon them and, under Dracula’s tutelage, has to assume the mantle of a real monster for his own safety whilst at the same time falling in love with his daughter as the over-protective count does everything possible to prevent their romance blossoming.
This is very child-friendly fare and even though it’s centred around the unholy quintet of Universal’s famous monsters ( Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, the Werewolf and the Invisible Man) there are precious few laughs to be had. The film lacks the multi level appeal of the best of PIXAR’s output although there is an effectively sly dig at the ‘Twilight’ series . And it can’t resist the Hollywood temptation to suggest that Hey, we’re all the same underneath whether it be monster or otherwise. The director’s frenetic pacing of the story doesn’t make up for this and as ever if the cartoon monsters don’t appeal then it’s the wholly unnecessary 3D that’ll sell it to the kids.
3D again will be the pester power factor that’ll force parents to take their kids to see Tim Burton’s remake of his own film, ‘Frankenweenie’ but this is far superior. After the disappointing flop of the deathly dull ‘Dark Shadows’ earlier this year Burton has returned to stop motion after previous success with ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ and ‘The Corpse Bride’.
Here the simple story revolves round a boy who never goes out, and doesn’t really have any friends except for his pet dog Sparky who he dotes on. Then one day he is forced by his Dad to take part in a school baseball game. The dog runs across a road to get the ball only to get run across himself and go to doggy heaven. But an idea from the lad’s science lessons prompts him to raise the dog from the dead in true Frankenstein style. All goes well until the other kids find out and start their own experiments with unexpected and catastrophic results for everyone in the town.
This is Burton back to his creative peak giving free rein to his gothic sensibilities. There’s much more here for the adults to enjoy as it endlessly references everything from The Bride of Frankenstein to Peter Lorre and even pays homage to the late great Vincent Price and all in glorious old style black and white. Unlike the garish Hotel Transylvania this is not afraid to let kids be afraid of its mildly nightmarish creatures and scary sequences (which accounts for its slightly higher BBFC rating) and yet still manages to be poignant in part. Brave enough also to feature very little dialogue and let its distinctly Burtonesque characters and images do the talking.
As with both films the 3D is entirely superfluous and is clearly there as a draw for children but for adults and children alike Frankenweenie is a scream.
Review by Simon Hooper