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Hotel Transylvania: Movie Review image

Hotel Transylvania: Movie Review

Mark Hadley thinks there is a Middle East peace proposal in the middle of the latest animated film from Sony.

Hotel Transylvania isn’t the newest plot – ‘lovers from different worlds striving to be together’ is as old an idea as Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even new to cartoons. What began with Lady And The Tramp found its way into the new millennium with Princess Fiona and an ogre named Shrek. But this latest twist on an old tale manages to bring in elements that might propose a solution to peace in the Middle East. No kidding, read on…

Sony Animation presents the classic villain Count Dracula as a loving father who’s lost his wife to an angry mob and just wants to find a safe place to raise his daughter. Adam Sandler provides the voice to an exotic dad with a common problem: how do you do best by your children? The count’s solution is to build a hotel hidden away from the violence of the human world.

Hotel Transylvania becomes a refuge for monsters from around the world. Together they raise daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) on a diet of human horror stories, gauged to guard her from danger. However, on the day of her 118th birthday a real human backpacker wanders into the lobby. Dracula has to disguise Jonathan (Andy Samberg) as a monster because he doesn’t fit his image of the outside world. And things get more complicated when a ‘zing’ passes between Mavis and Jonathan and they realize they’re in love.

A Middle East peace solution?

As I said, it’s very familiar territory but I can’t help wondering if the moviemakers had the Middle East in mind while they were penning this production. Dracula’s isolated, out-dated community; its highly emotional opinions of the outside world; the dangerous humans pictured as overweight, western tourists. Dracula’s conviction that these outsiders are determined to destroy his way of life and his family just firms the impression. He asks Jonathan a question that seems to sit across East-West relations,

Can you tell me for certain that if we came out in to the open that everyone would really accept us - truly?

However it’s his relationship with Jonathan that starts to bring Dracula’s convictions unstuck. He begins to realise that the boy is much like himself, and when the monsters finally encounter their enemies in the flesh they discover humans actually love them. There’s lots of fun tomfoolery along the way, including a moment when Dracula catches a glimpse of the monsters from Twilight – “This is how we’re represented? Unbelievable!” But rather than pitchforks and fire, the monsters find helping hands.

Now Hollywood has been guilty of wishful thinking before and a Middle East peace plan built on a cartoon and the slogan ‘Hey, we’re all the same!’ isn’t entirely unbelievable. But even if that’s just a bit too much sand on my brain, bigotry is still a theme familiar to both stories. As far as the producers are concerned, intolerance is the real monster and the damage it does to a child’s happiness. Mavis’ chance of finding her life partner is almost extinguished by her father’s fears, but Dracula’s apology goes just that step too far:

I always thought that the worst thing would be seeing you go but I realise that it's seeing you unhappy … Go make your own paradise.

Yet wise parents know that making your child’s happiness the measure for decisions is a sure path to long term unhappiness. Sandler’s Dracula believes “… children need to discover things for themselves”, but regardless of the respect Hollywood pays kids, they lack the wisdom or patience to navigate this world and will often settle for the short-term gain. Come to think of it, we’re not so different as parents. Yet God, the ultimate Father, knows that pain may not be the most pleasant path for His children to travel, but it can end in the best destination. That’s why James encourages us to be prepared to endure the hard times, even the criticism of our kids, because there are greater things at stake:

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

Watching Hotel Transylvania with your kids

Hotel Transylvania is a fun watch for the holidays, with enough laughs even if the content isn’t so inspirational. On the way back in the car try one of the following conversation-starters:

  • What was Dracula trying to save Mavis from?
  • Is it possible to avoid pain?
  • Why does God sometimes ask us to put up with a bad situation?

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