REVIEW / ANIMATION
MONSTER FAMILY (PG)
93 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5 stars
The story: Count Dracula (Jason Isaacs) falls head over heels in love with bookstore owner Emma Wishbone (Emily Watson). He sends the witch Baba Yaga to turn her into a vampire and deliver her to his castle. When Baba transforms Emma and by accident also her husband and two kids into monsters, the Wishbones have to find a way to lift their curse and defeat the cuckolding bloodsucker.
Monster Family is adapted from the book Happy Family by German writer David Safier, who won an Emmy for the television show Berlin, Berlin (2002-2005).
This reviewer has not read the "best-selling novel", but the film's production notes claim that it had erotic scenes.
One wonders how the story would have played out as a Twilight (2008) meets Unfaithful (2002) illicit-romance thriller. Alas, children are the target demographic, as director Holger Tappe said so himself. A chaste tango sequence is about as sexy as Dracula and Emma get.
Tappe's previous movies include Animals United (2010) and Back To Gaya (2004), Germany's first fully computer-animated feature film. He and screenwriter Catharina Junk try their best, but the character arcs are unconvincing and the plot, formulaic.
Isaacs, whom Harry Potter fans will recognise as having played Lucius Malfoy, voices Dracula with a sumptuous baritone - in his opening scene, he even gets to croon Tom Jones' It's Not Unusual. Catherine Tate is another standout as the mischievous Baba.
The others - Watson, Nick Frost as ineffectual dad-turned-Frankenstein's Monster Frank, Jessica Brown Findlay as sullen daughter-turned-mummy Fay, and Ethan Rouse as genius son-turned-werewolf Max - are competent.
Strangely, the Wishbones and a few other characters have a British accent, despite their home town being New York (in the novel, it's Berlin). More jarring are the poor lip-syncing and floaty animation.
Kids will lap up the scatological gags - Frank is a serial farter and Dracula's trio of bats eat one another's earwax - along with the manic chase scenes.
Adults are better off rewatching Hotel Transylvania (2012) or The Incredibles (2004), whose dysfunctional families are more human than this one.