Reel Reviews

‘Hotel Transylvania’

A-II -- adults and adolescents


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Check out the movie and check out of the Hotel

We are used to fables of humans fleeing from spooky ghouls and ghosts, but what if they were as scared of us as we are of them?

That is the premise of animated comedy “Hotel Transylvania” (Columbia) – an enjoyable, if slightly rude, pro-family romp in which the infamous Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) has established a “monsters only” resort to provide a safe haven for spooks to relax away from the torches and pitchforks of their antagonists.

In the midst of running the popular getaway, Drac invites his fellow fiends over to celebrate his headstrong daughter Mavis’ (voice of Selena Gomez) 118th birthday.
The (relatively) young Mavis, however, has other things on her mind and wants to escape the confines of the hotel and explore the outside world. Yet her father, having lost his wife many years before, is keen to protect her from being contaminated from the mortal world, going so far as lying to make her believe that humans are nothing but evil ne’er-do-wells.

So when skateboarding backpacker Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel by accident, the birthday girl’s interest is heightened and the caped protagonist must scramble to hide Jonathan’s humanity from both his guests and his intrigued offspring.

Director Genndy Tartakovsky’s goofy comedy gets many of its laughs from playing on, and updating, classic horror characters. So we have a loveable working class Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) and the overworked data processing werewolf Wayne (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who is being constantly nagged by his 50 children. Unfortunately, in spite of these clever twists, the picture dips its toes into the swamp of vulgarity a few times along the way to pick up a few easy laughs.

Yet while Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel’s screenplay has its fair share of mildly rude flatulent humor, it also contains a striking pro-family theme in Dracula’s touching relationships with his daughter, and his deceased wife over whom he is still grieving. Therefore amid the silliness come some very moving moments that will have Catholic viewers nodding in approval, as well as a conclusion that affirms the value of the family unit.

However, scary incidents that include zombies skulking around on fire, along with some mildly upsetting moments and the aforementioned gross humor, may exclude younger audiences from the party.

The film contains occasional mild scatological humor and a few scary scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Adam Shaw, Catholic News Service

‘Finding Nemo 3D’

A-I – general patronage


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Classic kid’s fish tale adds a dimension

A timid tropical fish embarks on a harrowing journey across vast stretches of treacherous ocean to rescue his lost son in the delightful animated adventure “Finding Nemo 3D” (Disney), now rereleased in 3-D nine years after its debut in multiplexes.

With beautiful underwater landscapes and a solid cast lending their voices, director Andrew Stanton creates an enchanting fable about courage, self-sacrifice and the power of love to overcome insurmountable odds.

Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) is an overly protective clown fish trying his best to raise his only son, Nemo (voice of Alexander Gould), in the relative safety of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But even the security of their plush sea anemone home is not without hazards – a reality Marlin is all too mindful of, having lost Nemo’s mother and siblings to a coral predator.

On the first day of school, the runtish Nemo finds himself the brunt of classmates’ jokes. Egged on by dares and desperate to be accepted, the impetuous minnow turns a deaf gill to his father’s warnings and swims beyond the reef’s drop-off, and out to the open sea to investigate a boat. Before Marlin can reel him in, Nemo is netted by a scuba diver and motored off, leaving Marlin helpless in the boat’s wake.

Befriended by an absent-minded fish, Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), the skittish Marlin takes off into the unknown in search of his son.

Nemo lands in a fish tank in a dentist’s office overlooking Sydney’s harbor, populated by an assortment of kooky tropical fish including the gang’s scarred leader, Gill (voice of Willem Dafoe), who’s itching for a prison break. Nemo has been marked as a birthday present for the dentist’s niece – a rambunctious kid whose last “gift” ended belly-up and sleeping with the, uh, fishes. Nemo’s plight sparks Gill to plot a daring escape.

Meanwhile, the aquatic odd couple of Marlin and Dory continue their odyssey, with menacing sharks, ravenous gulls, forests of deadly jellyfish and other dangers of the deep standing – or swimming – in their way. But not even the tiny fish’s whale-size heart can guarantee a happy ending or prevent his chances of ever finding Nemo and saving him from being, literally, flushed down the drain.

The film's real scene-stealers are the trio of bumbling sharks, Bruce, Anchor and Chum (voices of Barry Humphries, Eric Bana and Bruce Spence), who have formed a 12-step program aimed at changing their image as mindless eating machines to friendly ocean neighbors – their support group's motto is “Fish are friends, not food.” Though the toothy critters supply the biggest guffaws, their gaping jowls may prove scary, especially for young children.

The sequence which finds Marlin and Dory literally making a leap of faith inside a whale echoes the biblical story of Jonah – as well as the Disney classic “Pinocchio” – hinting at the necessity of surrendering to the will of God in times of despair. In the absence of a traditional Disney villain, the ocean itself takes on a pivotal role, offering both breathtaking beauty and unfathomable danger.

While some viewers may favor more traditional animation techniques, “Finding Nemo” elevates computer animation to a new level of fluidity, improving on early Pixar offerings like “Toy Story” and “Monsters Inc.” The underwater environments are visually stunning, ranging from the richly textured color-gardens of the Great Barrier Reef to the more muted, almost impressionistic, palette of the ocean expanses. And while Disney's never-saw-a-heartwarming-plot-that-couldn't-be-exploited-and-merchandised attitude is to be frowned at, audiences will find it hard not to applaud this whale of a tale.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences. All ages admitted.

By David DiCerto, Catholic News Service