Saturday, September 22, 2007

Transylvania 6-5000

This is not going to be an easy one to review, since there’s not much to really say about it. It’s a horror comedy made specifically for children, and it succeeds on that level in that its pleasant enough all the way through, with some good moments of humor scattered here and there. All quite pleasant enough, really.

The film stars Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. as they get assigned by their newspaper editor to go to Transylvania to check out a story about the possible existence of Frankenstein’s monster (simply referred to as Frankenstein throughout the film, in a seemingly intentional effort to confuse children when they go about reading the novel). If this seems like an odd subject for two newsmen to be assigned, it may be helpful to note that their editor’s office has front pages strung up around the walls with headlines like “I WAS DEAD FOR A WEEK AND LIKED IT”, just so we fully get that the paper is verging on Weekly World News territory (or at least New York Post territory). Once they arrive in Transylvania, it becomes a standard Abbott & Costello routine, with them running into a number of comic stalwarts in their investigation (Jeffrey Jones as the town mayor/hotel owner, Michael Richards as the hotel’s butler, etc.), all of whom sound like they came by their vaguely Eastern European accents completely independent of each other. What they eventually uncover I will not reveal, except to say that the film offers up a curious moral value, in openly professing that we should not judge people by their looks, while simultaneously having most of the villainously ugly characters show that they aren’t really ugly physically anymore at all, giving us a wee bit of a double standard. Given how many films I’ve seen that glorify violence while also paying lip service to how violence is wrong, I guess it’s forgivable, but it’s still a bit jarring to see the condemnation of superficiality and everyone’s transformation into beautiful, or at least non-hideous, people happening on screen at the same time.

It’s a minor point really, compared to the main problem plaguing the film, which is that the movie is nothing but fluff. It’s pleasant enough to watch, to be sure: Goldblum and Begley work well together and have some pretty good comic timing, and the parade of guest stars all do their jobs well. The film just doesn’t take things to the next level, to take things from decent to something really memorable, as previous horror comedies like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or Young Frankenstein, the clear spiritual successors to this film, managed, nor does it really succeed on just the level of a children’s horror movie, as the Monster Squad does, or the unrepentantly cheesy Silver Bullet does. It’s a thoroughly forgettable film all around, not really worth your money.

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