Review – Drac Is Back. . . Kinda (“Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania”)

I didn’t think Sony Pictures Animation would be making a fourth in the Hotel Transylvania franchise after the terrible threequel they put out in 2018, but I guess they wanted a proper send-off. Plus, Adam Sandler (who voiced Dracula), quit the series. Will that mean anything?

As in all film franchises, once you hit #4 your plot devices usually are time-travel, amnesia, long-lost relatives, a prequel, or this form of body-switching. It’s celebration time at the hotel with Dracula (voiced by Brian Hull this time), his new wife, Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn), and his father-in-law (and former arch-nemesis), half-man/half-machine Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). Drac plans to retire and leave Hotel Transylvania to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her easily-excited human-husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg). But when Drac has second thoughts, Johnny wants to be a monster like his wife and seeks out Abraham Van Helsing for help.

Using a “Monsterfication Ray”, Abraham turns Johnny into a huge 10-ft tall, green fire-breathing dragon! However, as Dracula is trying to turn Johnny back using the same device, he accidentally gets turned into a human, along with his buddies, werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Murray the mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Frankenstein (Brad Abrell), and the invisible man, Griffin (David Spade). Oh no! Drac & Johnny then undertake a dangerous road trip (via that Gremlin airline from part three) to South America to find a special crystal to fix the broken Monsterfication Ray.

Meanwhile, human versions of Wayne, Griffin, Murray, and Frank are stuck at the hotel trying to keep this a secret from Mavis. Yeah, good luck with that! Naturally, things go awry and it’s up to everyone to come together to give this final movie its happy ending. At a quick 88 mins, this installment is by newbie’s Amos Vernon and Nunzio Randazzo, and Genndy Tartakovsky (TV’s Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory) and it’s fast-paced and surprisingly quite funny for its fourth time around, which is odd since the fourth film in any franchise is usually the weakest.

While part three (Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation) was a jumbled mess of gags, skits, and unfunny jokes, this one has a decent story with a humorous script, even though it does contain the requisite amount of butt jokes required for the kids and is full of inconsistencies. Another nice thing is, it doesn’t stray far from the vocal talent, bringing back almost all the same voices, save for Adam Sadler. He’s been replaced by YouTuber Brian Hull who, for many years, has been posting videos of his incredible vocal impersonations, mostly Disney characters. And honesty, you can’t tell the difference!

Aside from a generic third act, this final entry into the Hotel Transylvania chain isn’t a bad one and is worth the watch. Newbie directors Jennifer Kluska & Derek Drymon keep the action fast & frenetic, delivering a winning send-off. Too bad this last one wasn’t released theatrically; it needed a wider audience.

**Now streaming on Amazon Prime

The Munsters (Season 2, Ep. 17)

You know ’em, you love ’em! That creepy family living at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. No, not The Addams Family, The Munsters!! The terrific, hilarious TV sitcom that ran from 1964-1966. A family of “monsters” (Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature, a pre-teen Werewolf, and Vampira) all living in suburbia with their human relative, Marilyn.

In the episode called, “Just Another Pretty Face“, Grandpa (Al Lewis) is experimenting in his dungeon and claims to be working on a machine that will bring about world peace. *Note: most of the equipment in Grandpa’s lab is from the original 1931 Universal movie, Frankenstein. Pretty cool, huh?. Herman (Fred Gwynne), anxious to see it, sneaks into the laboratory at night and starts to play with it, but gets hit in the head with a bolt of lighting. He wakes up and. . . shocker!! He now looks like a regular human being! (Gwynne without any prosthetics or make-up).

Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo), alarmed at her husband’s “disfigurement” takes Herman to Dr. Dudley (Dom DeLuise) to ask if anything can be done with plastic surgery, but he’s at a loss as to WHY. Meanwhile, Grandpa gets out Herman’s original blueprints from Dr. Frankenstein to see if he can put his son-in-law back together again, while Herman’s son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) and his human niece Marilyn (Pat Priest), wait nervously. Well, it works. . . kinda. The experiment zaps Herman into his old Frankenstein-looking body, except NOW he’s a woman! Oopsie!!

Herman, now wearing a dress, lipstick, and lovely curls on top of his flat skull, tries to cope with his new look along with his family. BUT! After stepping outside during a thunderstorm, Herman gets hit with a bolt of lightning and ZAP! He’s instantly returned (clothes and all!) to his former state! This episode was written by the very prolific Richard Baer, whose IMDB page is long & impressive. From 1953-1984 he wrote some of the most beloved TV shows ever, including Bewitched, F-Troop, That Girl, and Archie Bunker’s Place.

Enough cannot be said about The Munsters. It was wholesome, fun, family entertainment in glorious black & white that even crossed into the movies with Munster Go Home! in 1966. Sure there have been remakes (even Rob Zombie is doing one!), reboots, and knock-offs of this famous family, but this show is like the original Twilight Zone; often imitated, never duplicated with any success.

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