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Just how scared could anyone be of Adam Sandler playing Dracula? Well, just to make sure that he's still got a certain amount of monster cred in the opening minutes of the newest digital animated merriment "Hotel Transylvania," you see what happens when Sandler/Drac loses his cool.
The screen suddenly turns blood and fire red and Dracula's angry, fang-toothed face triples in size and the music is a loud, scary dissonance.
There were genuine screams and squeals among the kiddies at the film's Saturday morning screening. Parents should, of course, be forewarned.
Not to worry. The next time it happens, it's all for those wonderful little giggles you hear at such movies. By then, the audience knows what a neurotic, overprotective father Dracula is and how dedicated he's become to protecting the lives and feelings of the world's monsters from the depredations of those horrific creatures, the humans.
That's the sturdy basic joke of "Hotel Transylvania." Our monsterphile Drac not only builds a five-stake resort for all his monster friends to visit and live with merry horror far away from human influence, but he fills his own daughter Mavis with terrors of the world "out there" where the humans prowl around looking for monsters to treat abominably.
Human blood, says the vampire, is so fatty. You never know where it's been.
It is, then, needless to say a bit of a problem when Mavis unknowingly falls in love with a human trying to pass for a monster.
Daddy Drac talks a good game of trusting his young daughter. "You're old enough to drive a hearse," he says with Sandler's voice doing the world's most unconvincing Bela Lugosi imitation, "you're old enough to make your own choices." But Daddy Drac is about as overprotective as they come.
It's all a good deal of fun, really. I must confess the "Romeo/Juliet," monster/human story wasn't exactly my favorite thing to be protracted as long as it is here. But the whole movie is Dracula's big birthday party for Mavis, to which all their monster friends - and I do mean all - have been invited.
David Spade is the voice of the Invisible Man. Frankenstein is there, with a splendidly detachable head.
You haven't lived until you've seen monster bingo. Or a werewolf's solution to the sudden problem of a sheep blocking the road. (The werewolf's voice is that of a no-doubt-delighted Steve Buscemi.)
The kids seemed to love it, especially the gas-passing gags and the puddles of piddle that suddenly appear and cause interesting social solutions.
If adults familiar with Conan O'Brien's show find a lot of the jokes delightfully reminiscent of things that might have been said or thought up by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, it's all for good cause. The movie was co-written by Robert Smigel, the joyously antisocial writer and voice of Triumph, a dog always looking for humans to unload on.
It is, no doubt, the presence of Sandler and Smigel that is responsible for some of the most identifiable comic voices of our time (Spade, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz) having roles in this thing along with the less-identifiable Selena Gomez (as Mavis), Molly Shannon and CeeLo Green. And too, how could those guys resist some good gags at the expense of the vampires vs. werewolf fantasies of "Twilight" world? They don't.
It's entertaining for what it is but in truth probably won't prove to be nearly as interesting to movie fans as Tim Burton's upcoming "Frankenweenie."
hotel transylvania
3 stars
With the voices of: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Selena Gomez, Kevin James
Director: Genndy Taratoksky
Running time: 91 minutes
Rating: PG for a couple of genuine scares for the kiddies and rude humor.
The Lowdown: Dracula builds a five-stake resort for his monster friends to disport themselves unbothered on vacation, but his daughter falls in love with a somewhat dopey human.
email: jsimon@buffnews.com