The "Hotel Transylvania" series from Sony Pictures Animation has never been an animated series that people would consider great, but it has been one that I did enjoy. The films focusing on Dracula and his misadventures at his hotel for monsters with his best friends and his daughter Mavis and her human husband Jonathan have had a certain charm to them that worked for me and had a lot of funny humor and great animation that made me feel they were worth a recommendation. After the third film back in 2018, I figured that Sony Pictures Animation would be done with the series and ready to work on other projects. However, we now have one more film with Drac and his buddies at the crazy hotel in "Hotel Transylvania: Transformania" and it's sadly the weakest entry in the franchise. It's certainly better than other animated series that went sour like "Shrek", "Ice Age", or "Despicable Me", but the film sadly doesn't have the same charm or humor that worked for me with the last few films. I found something missing here.
Shortly after the events of the third film, Drac (Brian Hull) is preparing for retirement and settling down with his new wife Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). He wants to pass down his esteemed Hotel Transylvania to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) but is reluctant to hand it over to her crazy human husband Jonathan (Andy Samberg). Believing that the hotel can only be passed over to a monster, Jonathan meets with Ericka's grandfather Dr. Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) where he is presented with a machine that can turn anything into either a monster or human. Sure enough, it works as Jonathan does become a monster but through some crazy mishaps, Drac soon becomes a human, and Drac's monster buddies like Frankenstein (Brad Abrell), Murray the mummy (Keegan Michael-Key), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), and Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) end up becoming human too but end up damaging the machine in the process. Wanting to undo the mess they've started, Drac and Jonathan set off to South America to find a rare crystal that'll help fix the machine and turn them back to their former selves.
When this film was announced back in 2019, I was constantly wondering what the point of a fourth "Hotel Transylvania" was and this is coming from someone who likes the films. The third film seemed to be a film that wrapped everything up nicely and didn't seem like a film that needed to be topped. However, we now have one last installment in the series and it's, unfortunately, the weakest one and has a hard time justifying its own existence though I'll give it this. It's way better than other installments in animated series that went sour like "Shrek", "Ice Age", or "Despicable Me". Most of the film's problems are really rooted in the story. I think what helped make the stories in the first three films work as well as they did was director Genndy Tartakovsky. He helped really give the series a lot of the great humor and heart that it had while being very over the top but still under control at the right moments. However, Tartakovsky decided that three films in the series were more than enough and decided not to return to the director's chair for this installment and his absence is very apparent. This film is very over the top and it's a little too much for my tastes as it's constantly manic and trying to be outrageous and it got a little too much for me after a while. It also seemed to me that the idea of Jonathan wanting to impress Drac was a step backward for this series as the two were already on very good terms by the second and third film and Drac was comfortable having Mavis be with him. I mean, the two did have a child together after all. I personally thought that the second film, which was my personal favorite of the series, handled the themes better too. The film itself is also rather predictable as it falls into specific points you can see coming before it builds to a climax that is nowhere near as good or funny as the third film and ends on a note that didn't feel very satisfying to me.
I would be more forgiving to the story if the film was funny, but it's sadly not most of the time. The film does have a few moments I did find funny like Van Helsing talking about how hard it was to find the crystal and that it took him three years to find it. That was pretty clever. However, because the film is so over the top, it relies on humor that just felt a little too much for my tastes. If Tartakovsky was directing it, I think it would've been a little bit more controlled. As far as the characters go, I don't really have much to say since most aren't given a lot to do. The main focus of the film is on Drac and Jonathan and because the conflict they have is similar to both the first and second films, I wasn't fully invested. Most of the film also just has them talking about their new shapes with Jonathan loving his new monster appearance and Drac hating being a human. It's sort of funny at first but gets tiresome after a while. Even the other characters at the hotel are mostly shoved to the side. Mavis and Ericka didn't really have much development and I wished I saw the two bond a little bit more considering that Ericka was Drac's new wife. The other monsters at the hotel also didn't do much as well except for just come along on the ride to South America though Frank did have some funny moments where he was totally in love with his new human self though everyone else is disgusted, especially his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher). I also missed seeing Dennis and Winnie as they were two of the biggest scene-stealers in the last two films and had some adorable scenes together but mostly got pushed aside for a brief appearance. It was such a shame. If there's one thing about the film that really does work for me apart from some of the humor, it's easily the animation. This animation is so full of life and expressive and over the top that it really is fun to watch. You could tell the animators had a lot of fun going mad with these characters one more time and I certainly had fun watching it in motion. However, it couldn't make up for the lackluster story.
In the end, "Hotel Transylvania: Transformania" is a lackluster conclusion for the franchise. Despite the animation being amazing and filled with life, the story was not terribly funny and didn't end on a high note and the characters weren't given a lot to do in the end. I only think this is a film I'd recommend for die-hard fans of the franchise though I will say I didn't hate this film by any means. I'm eager to see what Sony Pictures Animation has in store next now that this is indeed the last one and I had a fun time with this franchise and I will have fond memories of Drac and his buddies, but this is the one adventure I don't think I'd check back in to see again.