Thursday, May 02, 2013

Hotel Transylvania

The family and I watched the movie Hotel Transylvania on 3D Blu-ray. It was an excellent though somewhat uneven film, with lots of knowing cultural references, non-stop sight-gags, and a touching if time-worn theme of a father's worry over his daughter's coming-of-age.

The film is pretty obviously an allegory for the Jewish experience in America, though suprisingly few reviewers have remarked on this. Count Dracula retreats into seclusion from a howling mob of torch-bearing, vaguely Germanic human villagers to build a hidden refuge for monsters. Therein they nurse a culture of fear and grievance against humans, though by movie's end they emerge into a vaguely American world where monsters are celebrated rather than scorned.

To the extent that this story is a message to executive producer Adam Sandler's fellow jews -- Christians don't actually hate you anymore, and your reflexive anti-Gentilism is outdated -- I can't help regard the film as a positive development. Yet questions remain. Is Sandler a-okay with intermarriage? (Dracula's daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) falls in love with a human backpacker that stumbles into the hotel.) Are the unions Jewish or Gentile? (Mavis is 118 years old and apparently immortal; what happens as the backpacker ages normally?) What exactly does the hotel represent? (Israel? Insularity in general?)

Hotel Transylvania borrows promiscuously from the legends of the full monster pantheon (werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc.) who were originally called into being to embody traits that were . . . how can I put this . . . somewhat anti-social. And then it implies that those legends are all false: monsters are merely misunderstood, and the fear of them is mindless predjudice. That's just a little too tidy even for a children's movie. (This review hints at some of this.)

The movie makes a nod toward portraying the backpacker as someone to whom a modern teenager would credibly be attracted, but the result is something of a mishmash. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) is at once too clueless (in the California surfer mode) to realize he has stumbled into the hotel of the undead, yet simultaneously excels at whatever he does, be it hiphop music or surfing magic tables. But he also manages to play it pretty cool around Mavis and doesn't give immediate reign to his interest in her.

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