I really want to say Transylvania 6-5000 is smart and clever, but there are too many cons that hold me back from doing so. The concept is something I can get behind. A bunch of “monsters” are sighted in this Transylvanian village and two tabloid reporters are sent to make a cheesy report about it. I like the idea of how its taking the famed monsters and turning the mythos on its head. However, once the movie is over, I can’t help but realize there is a lot of room for improvements here and there. And I mean a lot…
Let me talk about the pros first, because there is some good stuff which makes the experience redeemable. Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. are not too bad as the reporters. They can have a funny moment once in a while and surprisingly have good chemistry. While its not too iconic like Abbott and Costello, they still try to make the material they are given usable for laughs.
Even some of the side characters are memorable, too. I still remember how crass their boss (Normal Fell) is and how much he expresses his love for “crap” news. The first scene he is in clearly sets the tone for how much it doesn’t care what damage it does to the monster mythology like calling the Frankenstein monster “Frankenstein.” Jeffery Jones plays the mayor and, as always, he will give a fun performance no matter what he’s in.
Perhaps the ones I remember more are the butler Fejos (Seinfeld‘s Michael Richards) and the servants (Carol Kane and famed voice actor John Byner). Fejos is always showing off his comedic shtick even when its not needed. One minute, he’s using fake legs for a door injury, riding on a kiddie ride for no reason or playing around with puppets. The character is unpredictable. I also like the two servants, because both actors have a lot of funny scenes like trying to one up each other. Its such an odd pairing to have Kane and Byner, yet something just works so well with those two.
Another good thing is some of the funny set pieces. There’s a hilarious highlight where the reporters go to a local hotel and one of them asks if they have seen the Frankenstein monster. The attendants take this as a joke and keep riffing on how they believe in monsters. It’s the best laugh in the whole feature, aside from comedy 101 with Micheal Richards. There’s other little scenes here and there which are funny too. But not as big of a belly laugh as two reporters getting awkward laughs from an entire hotel staff.
And from there, it all goes downhill. What doesn’t work for me is the rest of the movie. It takes about an entire hour, until something interesting happens. And because of that, a lot of our attention is on Goldblum and Begley Jr’s characters. It’s sad because even some of the material they are given is not enough to work with. There’s drawn out moments where they look about the castle or try to figure out what is real. And for the most part, the movie just drags.
Afterwards, the plot kicks back into gear when we are introduced to a mad scientist, played by Joseph Bologna, who is keeping a bunch of “monsters” with him for experimentation…or that’s how it seems. It’s a very funny performance as Bolonga switches between a kind and caring man to a ranting lunatic. What makes this a negative is how we have to wait so long for a kooky character to be introduced to finally break up the clutter. We spend so much time with the reporters to a point even their material gets sort of thin.
There’s also some jokes that don’t seem to work or have a bizarre setup. For example, there is this fortune teller that recites lines from the original Wolf Man, who ends her routine by “going to rest” and whacking her head on the table leaving a big hole. It’s amusing at first, but then the joke gets tiring when we see it again and get the idea this is part of her shtick. It doesn’t really make much sense outside of the painful thought of why this woman doesn’t have a concussion yet. There’s even a brief moment when someone who looks like the Wolf Man calls Goldblum a “communist” for no reason. It just comes out of blue.
But the biggest thing that really ruins for it for me is the ending. I won’t spoil a whole lot, but I get the joke. These outcasts who look like monsters are not really monsters and the doctor has been trying to cure them this entire time to be normal. It’s not bad, but its executed in this really lame way. Wouldn’t it be more funnier if they were real monsters instead of people who look like them?
Sure, it does lead into a funny gag where Begley Jr. tries to manipulate an angry mob by acting as different mob members. But, it just becomes a disappointing conclusion to know the monsters are not real and it’s all one big misconception. Again, that joke can work, but it’s not done right. I feel the idea of revealing the Wolf Man as a really harry guy or the Frankenstein monster is just literally stitched back up together. However, there’s a lot of lost comedic potential here. Even a young Geena Davis sporting a skimpy outfit and acting as a vampire is not enough to save it.
On the whole, I’m not too disappointed in Transylvania 6-5000, but I do wish it could have been better. Occasionally, there is a very funny and quotable line along with a humorous scene or two. But I feel so much of the enjoyment rides on just how you view the way it concludes. Do you feel it needs a big Scooby-Doo ending or would it be funnier if they didn’t take this safe road? I can’t say for sure this is looked at too negatively and it does have a cult following. Heck, this movie was a small hit at the box office, despite some harsh reviews including an infamous one by Leonard Maltin. This is another case of watch and judge for yourself. Some of it does work, but I feel a great bulk of the movie lags under how it treats the concept. And if you want a true monster mash-up,stay tuned Halloween day for a special review on that.