Directed by Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska and streaming Friday on Amazon Prime Video, Hotel Transylvania: Transformation completes a series of four animated films that have Dracula as a nervous father and owner of a monster resort. This time, the plot – about a ray gun that turns people into monsters and vice versa – seems to recognize the need to pull the characters out of their inertia.
“Drac” (Brian Hull, who replaced Adam Sandler) has taken up residence with Erica (Katherine Hahn), the great-granddaughter of famed monster hunter Van Helsing. Mavis (Selena Gomez), Drac and Erica’s daughter, has a child with a dim-witted camper named Johnny (Andy Samberg). Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) roams the basement of a hotel. It is his crystal ray gun that turns Johnny into a dragon and Draka and his circle of monster dads into humans.
Johnny takes on his wild new form because Drac, who is usually overprotective, said that only monsters can take over the hotel after he retires.
But Drak, now a flightless man, misses his magic. He and Johnny go on a Scooby-Doo level quest in an Amazonian cave in search of a fresh crystal for a broken ray gun. Erica, Mavis and company give chase in an airship to help.
Giving monsters a sitcom-style family dynamic has long been the standard in large animated productions, but that dynamic tends to make banal what is weird and intriguing about the characters. The series “Hotel Transylvania”, previously directed by Gendy Tartakovsky, usually compensates with its comedy for a vivid visual imagination, a vivid sense of color and, of course, dance parties.
But despite some quirks (like a mirrored crystal cave), Transformation feels locked into the routine rhythms of its plot and jokes about its human incarnations. It even ends with the character shrugging his shoulders.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformation
PG rating. Duration: 1 hour 28 minutes. Look on Amazon.