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Hotel for Spies

Cinemoron reviews "Hotel Transylvania"

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By Austin Yoder | Echo

“Hotel Transylvania 2,” the sequel to the 2012 animated film “Hotel Transylvania,” is an exciting, slow-burning movie that I enjoyed immensely, even though it’s not animated, follows a completely different storyline and doesn’t feature a single character from the original film.

Last Friday, facing yet another weekend of overwhelming loneliness, I went to the local cinema, fully prepared to see Adam Sandler’s newest cartoon comedy. The theatre was packed. As people filled the seats around me, I was surprised to see no children attending this family-friendly film. This just goes to show how Sandler appeals to a wide audience.

In “Hotel Transylvania 2,” Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, an insurance lawyer who is given the unenviable task of defending Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), who has been captured by American agents. Overnight, Donovan becomes one of the most hated men in America as he strives to provide a fair defense to the enemy. When an American pilot is shot down and captured, Donovan must travel to Germany to negotiate a swap. If I remember correctly, the original “Hotel Transylvania” was about a hotel for monsters run by Dracula. I honestly have no clue how or why the filmmakers chose to make such drastic changes to the characters and plot, but the result is a film that is far superior to the original in every way.

Hanks gives a reliably terrific performance, his affable demeanor cutting through the palpable tension that hangs over much of the film. But it’s Rylance that steals the show, with a powerful performance that commands compassion, effectively undermining every stereotype of foreign spies. As the soft­-spoken and likable Abel, he accomplishes the improbable task of getting Donovan, and the audience, to be sympathetic toward his livelihood and motivation. However, as far as I can tell, neither of these characters is a vampire or any other sort of monster for that matter.

The rest of the cast is equally riveting, specifically the relatively unknown Scott Shepherd, who brings some much needed levity to the movie as CIA Agent Hoffman. Austin Stowell plays Francis Gary Powers, the pilot who gets shot down in enemy territory. Teary­-eyed and snot-­nosed, Stowell reduces the American legend to a blubbering wimp, which is even more shocking when juxtaposed with Rylance’s Rudolph Abel. But lest you think the movie is at all lacking in patriotism, America and its values, per usual, are the ultimate victor.

The film’s cinematography is another high point, artfully capturing the dark, paranoid atmosphere of the Cold War world. From the bright, colorful halls of the United States Supreme Court to the bleak, cold streets of war­-torn Germany, the filmmakers paint a fascinating, engrossing picture of a bygone era.

All in all, “Hotel Transylvania 2” is an intense, inspiring, and spectacular film, even though it strays very far from its predecessor. Don’t forget to pick up next week’s copy of “The Echo,” where I will be reviewing Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.”

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