Hotel Transylvania is the latest family comedy to emerge from Sony Pictures Animations. Dracula has been persecuted by humans and tries to protect his new daughter, Mavis, by building a well fortified castle. Seeing a business opportunity, he opens up the castle as a hotel for monsters, promising a safe vacation secure from human interference. But when a human backpacker, Jonathan, finds his way into the hotel and wins the heart of Dracula’s daughter, things begin to go awry.

From Genndy Tartakovsky, director of television cartoons Star Wars: Clone Wars, Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, Hotel Transylvania is packed with visual gags. The wide shots are overflowing with monsters – some familiar and some more surprisingly distinctive – making Hotel Transylvania visually amusing. There are a few nice quirks too, including scream cheese and a creepy game of monster bingo.

There might be a lot to look at but Hotel Transylvania’s plot is pretty basic, unsurprising and descends into something of a fairytale as Dracula tries to reunite his daughter with her one true ‘zing’. Casting the traditional villains as the ‘goodies’ no longer feels new and Hotel Transylvania does little to inject a fresh spin on this now familiar twist. Fortunately, the jokes come in thick and fast, distracting from the story’s simplicity.

With a screenplay from Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live) and Peter Baynham (who has written for the Alan Partridge series and worked on stories for Sacha Baron Cohen) we might expect sharper comedy than that provided in Hotel Transylvania. While Baynham’s first venture into animated features, Arthur Christmas, was something of a disappointment, Hotel Transylvania is a better offering. There are some funny, if largely silly, gags to be had in Hotel Transylvania and a few gems for the grown-ups. A group of zombie builders whistling at a passing female zombie and a nod to the Twilight franchise are all very funny – ‘This is how we’re being represented? Unbelievable,’ says Dracula as he sees a clip of the film. But Hotel Transylvania lacks the consistently astute observations and grown-up appeal seen in films from contemporary animation rivals, Pixar.

“Casting the traditional villains as the ‘goodies’ no longer feels new and Hotel Transylvania does little to inject a fresh spin on this now familiar twist”

Hotel Transylvania’s characters are also a mixed bag of imaginative and dull. Steve Buscemi’s big bad wolf is the most interesting – now married with more children than he can cope with, the wolf has become old and worn out. Frankenstein on the other hand is predictable and lacklustre. Dracula (Adam Sandler) is appealing enough, but is reminiscent of Despicable Me’s villain turned model father, Gru, yet lacking Gru’s charisma and screen presence. The leading lady we should be rooting for, Mavis (Selena Gomez), is often annoying and seems far too immature to be looking for the love of her life. If her desire to see the world and dance to modern tunes is an attempt at modernising the traditional fairytale – the idea of ‘marriage’ is glaringly avoided – it simply doesn’t work. Mavis’ styling also feels off and much too human. Dressed in striped leggings, with black lipstick and eyeshadow, Mavis looks more like a goth version of Katy Perry than a young Dracula – indicative perhaps of Hotel Transylvania’s attempt to draw in a young teen audience.

What it lacks in storyline, Hotel Transylvania makes up for in jokes. Obvious and silly at times, there are a few decent laughs for the grown-ups but Hotel Transylvania is likely to have more appeal for younger audiences. Coming to the big screen in time for half-term and Halloween, Hotel Transylvania has a big challenge ahead, battling it out at the box office with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

VERDICT:  ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩  3/5

For more information, see the official website