Wilder's Movie Review

By: Dwayne Wilder



Blah! Blah! Blah!
 
The ending sequence is what makes “Hotel Transylvania” a decent movie. With Dracula and fellow cohorts in pursuit of the human, “Jonathan,” the townspeople are celebrating a ‘monster’ weekend complete with costumes. All the Dracula partygoers are mimicking “Blah! Blah! Blah!” which prompts our movie Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) to say:
 
“I do not say ‘Blah! Blah! Blah!’.”
 
They all just ignore him as another costumed partygoer and continue their celebration. Dracula finds the airport and takes after the jet in bat form to stop Jonathan from leaving; you see, Dracula’s daughter, Mavis, and the young human have had a ‘Zing.’ They are in love much to overprotective daddy’s chagrin.
 
But in the end, Dracula wants his daughter to be happy………even if it’s with a human!
 
This entire sequence of events at the end of this animated film is hilarious, touching and simply fun! The first hour or so isn’t bad, but it drags some with its endless sight gags, monster gags and frenetic pace. You feel you are watching a bad ‘Youtube’ video!
 
But in fairness, this first hour does set up the film for the big finish. All the relationships and issues are set before the audience for the satisfying conclusion (which includes a song and dance number-hilarious!).
 
The plot of ‘Hotel T’ centers around the resort run by Dracula for all the monsters who are unfairly ‘terrorized’ by humans. It is a place where Frankenstein, the Invisible Man or the Werewolf can go for a vacation and put all fears aside; basically, be human free.
 
Dracula has raised Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez, as a single parent and doesn’t want her to ever venture out of the hotel for fear of the things that (bad) humans will do to her. She’s 118 years old now and it’s time for her coming out party. (And Drac has run the hotel since 1895!) The party must be perfect, according to Daddy Dracula; so all the stops are pulled for this one weekend. Everything is perfect except a human stumbles in………
 
Jonathan, voiced by Sandler’s fellow Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg, is a wandering youth who has backpacked across Europe and much of the world. He accidentally comes upon the castle (hotel) and believes it to be a place to stay for the weekend. Of course, Dracula panics………….not just for his guests, but for his daughter, too! His plan? Dress the human as Frankenstein’s arm’s cousin, “Jonnie!” AND he’s there to help with the party, of course!
 
As with all animated films, the voice work is where the ‘proof in the pudding’ is. This film has an abundance of talent including Kevin James as Frankenstein and Fran Drescher as his wife, Eunice. They are funny together and ‘a part,’ if you know what I mean!
 
Other voices include Steve Busemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Celo Green, Jon Lovitz and Chris Parnell. Do you see a SNL bias here? (It is ‘Help your fellow cast members after they leave the show Day’ in this movie!) Anyway, they all do a good job with their characters.
 
“Hotel Transylvania” is 91 minutes long and is rated PG for rude humor, action and scary images including when Dracula/Daddy gets angry. A flash of his head with reddened face and mad expression adds to the loud voice to show a hidden temper; could scare toddlers.
 
This film was directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and written by Peter Baynum and Robert Smigel; another SNL contributor! It premiered last weekend in first place with a record $43 million at the box office. ‘Hotel’ is made by Sony Animation and the artwork is excellent. It is continuing its climb toward Pixar as a great animation company.
 
Besides all the sight gags, there is the very real ‘father/daughter’ dynamic going on; the overprotective nature of parents and young love. These ‘real’ issues all blend together nicely at the end. It is funny and poignant at the same time! Greatness if you can get it!
 
The story really gets going once Dracula’s plan is exposed by Mavis herself! This begins the end of the film and it’s worth the wait. You’ll get into that last song; and realize that this movie actually delivers…………since 1895………….
 
‘Hope’
 
This is the last word said in the new film, “Won’t Back Down.”
 
It is the crux of what the movie is trying to say, but the reality is that the producers left out too much of the subject to make it seem sincere. Now, the idea is great…….give failing schools and children ‘hope’ to be better…….yet, the script focuses on the two main characters and not enough of the issues surrounding this complex issue.
 
“Won’t Back Down” is good because of Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal; they are the two main characters and each actress does well in their respective roles. Davis is a little better, but that is expected from the Oscar nominated actress. Her rejuvenated teacher persona is believable and powerful. She has more to work with in her character and she nails it. I wish that the rest of the movie could have the same believability.
 
Gyllenhaal’s Jaime Fitzpatrick, a lower class Pittsburgh single mother, is crushed by her daughter’s educational situation. The school is the worst in the district and has been for almost 20 years. The unions have the teachers hands tied and the school administration does the rest. Fitzpatrick learns of a little known ‘Fail Safe’ law where the parents and teachers of a school can ‘turn around’ a school, but the process is so arduous that no one has ever actually done it. At least, this is what the ‘based on true events’ leads us to believe.
 
Gyllenhaal’s character, as the parent, has to enlist a teacher to begin the process; then together they have to get a petition of 400 parents and 18 teachers………………just to get on the school board’s agenda………..in order to set a date for a hearing to present a proposal…………..a three to five year process at best! But Davis’ Nona Alberts and Fitzpatrick don’t have that long for their children; they need help now, so the imperative is on to get a vote that school year.
 
“Good Luck!” as they say to the snowball in hell………………………………………
 
The script of this two hour movie hits the high spots, but something of this magnitude has more subplots than the ‘Lost’ television series! Perhaps it isn’t director Daneil Barnz and writer Brin Hill that is at fault; yet they worked it out for the two main characters to voice their concerns. Why not everyone else?
 
The women battle parents, school board members and the teacher’s union throughout the story. The film paints the union as the bad guy – this is the main complain as it appears the filmmakers are pushing school vouchers – but the unions aren’t the major problem. They only add to and maintain the problem, in my opinion. Nothing is shown how the union might HELP turn a school around, which it could in almost any context. Of course, it would take all parties cooperating, but this message is not one the producers want to convey. They want to show that parents/teachers can fix education by holding petition drives and bake sales.
 
Too bad it doesn’t work that way in real life………………………………..
 
Other actors in decent roles and performances are Holly Hunter as a union rep; Rosie Perez as a teacher co-worker of Alberts; Oscar Isaac as a music teacher; and Ving Rhames and Bill Nunn as principals.
 
“Won’t Back Down” is rated PG for thematic elements and some language. It opened Sept. 28 in 10th place with $2.6 million. Not a good sign for the film; maybe, DVD sales will help.
 
Clearly, this film was made for the audience to cheer the two main characters, which is fine except you ignore everything else. The clichés are rampant, laughable and one dimensional; the story doesn’t present any new angle on this old problem. It’s ready to bash everything in place – and look like a commercial for vouchers – but this movie doesn’t take the time to do what it says……give those children…….. .‘Hope’……….


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