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Review: 'Hotel Transylvania'

Just when you thought it was safe to kick up your fur-tufted heels or relax with a creepy cocktail without a curious hand trying to make its way through your skeletal ribcage, along comes a human and ruins the whole thing. Welcome to Hotel Transylvania, Sony Pictures Animation’s new kid-friendly 3-D release that shows the cuddly underbelly of some of history’s most terrifying monsters.

With an A-list voice cast that includes Adam Sandler as the protective Count Dracula; Selena Gomez as his headstrong daughter, Mavis; and Andy Samberg as the bumbling human Jonathan, Hotel Transylvania drops the usual Halloween scares in favor of a fun and at times clever treat for even small children. (Plus, parents might get a kick out of figuring out which famous voice is embodying, say, Frankenstein or Quasimodo.)

As Mavis prepares to celebrate her 118th birthday, she craves her freedom and is desperate to fly (in this case, literally) from her pleasantly haunted nest. Drac, as the hotel proprietor is affectionately called, has other plans, though—plans that involve keeping his motherless daughter away from any human whatsoever.

In fact, that’s the entire reason for creating his spooky oasis, Hotel Transylvania. After a tragic run-in with the homo sapiens crowd, Drac has envisioned a worry-free haven where ghouls, ghosts and goblins alike can feel comfortable enough to let their bug-infested hair down, without the fear of being attacked by humans.

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That is, until Jonathan arrives. The bumbling backpacker stumbles upon this secret Transylvanian lair, and Drac goes bat----, well, you know. Especially when he sees sparks—or possibly a "zing," as he calls it—between Jonathan and Mavis. And, in an effort to disguise Jonathan so as not to freak out the frolickers, Drac turns him into "Johnnystein," a distant cousin to his pal, Frank. The movie delights in the hijinks that ensue while keeping Jonathan's identity under wraps, as well as the real challenge of keeping the kids away from each other.

Hotel Transylvania is ultimately a sweet-natured film that turns the "scream cheese"-laden tables on monster stereotypes and portrays them as approachable, if eerie-looking, creatures who just want to be accepted for who they are. The 3-D effects work well, as the audience seemingly soars down torchlit hallways and over trees without leaving their seats. My 5-year-old daughter, in fact, was reaching her hands out toward the screen and ducking during particularly bat-filled scenes.

While there are some scenes that seem out of place in this kid flick (some aggressively sassy shrunken heads come to mind), and explaining the tragic backstory of Mavis's mom could get a bit tricky, children should still find lots of laughs in this animated movie.

And, at least for a certain 5-year-old girl, the "zing" was the thing.

What We Love: A monster movie with fun 3-D effects that won’t frighten the little ones.

Hold on a Minute: The shrunken heads that adorn doorknobs are a little freaky and aggressively sassy, and some jokes might get parental eye rolls.

Opens: September 28

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 91 minutes

MORE: Review: 'Won't Back Down'

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