This week we help you decide which supernatural animated movie should make it to the top of your home viewing list. Our choices? CG animated new release "Hotel Transylvania", about a hotel where all horror mainstays can come be themselves without fear of humans fearing them, or fellow 2012 flicks, stop motion animated "Paranorman", about a boy who speaks to the dead, and "Frankenweenie", about a boy who raises the dead.
See: "Frankenweenie" OR "Paranorman"
A question for a good portion of 2012 was which of these horror leaning stop motion animated movies would come out on top. Tim Burton's feature length adaptation of his 1984 live action short by the same name, or LAIKA's next film following 2009's wonderful "Coraline." Both films had strong showings at Comic-Con, and it was difficult to go to any major film event last year without running into life-size walking Norman & his zombie co-stars. But as it turns out, both movies were extremely well received, with "Paranorman" slightly edging out "Frankenweenie" in terms of box office, and "Frankenweenie" minutely (as in a 1% RT rating difference) edging out "Paranorman" in terms of reviews.
The animation for both films may be stop motion, but are wildly different in tone, texture and style. "Frankenweenie" feels more classic in many respects, both in design and story, while "Paranorman" has a bit of an exciting newness to its look, an edge to its storytelling dynamics, humor arriving in unexpected places and even a bit of a nod to hipsterdom with a score by Jon Brion. Both films suffer from Third Act ClusterEff Syndrome, but they also both redeem themselves with sweet and effective conclusions. Perfect to watch with family, friends, or on your own in need of a pick me up, either one of these delightful Oscar nominees deserve a watch.
Not: "Hotel Transylvania"
While "Hotel Transylvania" dominated both "Frankenweenie" and "Paranorman" at the box office, and already has a sequel in the works, it comes nowhere near them in terms of quality and heart. Whereas "Frankenweenie" and "Paranorman"'s voice casts are strong and specific to the story at hand, "Hotel Transylvania" stars the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James and David Spade. No. Who wants to listen to their voices when coming out of their faces, let alone disembodied? The premise sounds interesting on paper, all of the worlds' best known horror staples getting together at Hotel Transylvania to celebrate the birthday of Dracula's daughter when an outsider arrives and falls for her amidst the chaos. But in action, the whole thing feels rather empty. Something about it almost seems sacrilege, with these beloved Universal monsters making buffoons of themselves. What would Bela Lugosi say?!
Throw in a healthy dose of juvenile jokes and distaste for substance, and you get a film that will work fine for distracting the kiddies, but provide nothing for them that is moving, important or lasting, and the incessant antics will unfortunately drive anyone over the age of ten completely bonkers. The attempt at depicting a sweet father/daughter relationship is a noble one, but "Tangled" did more for that relationship in two scenes that "Hotel Transylvania" does in its entire 90-minute run time. Worse yet, the animation design is clunky and far from pleasant to look at, a high crime in this genre as far as we're concerned.
So if you're on the search for an animated movie to take in this week, the choice is simple. NOT this one.