Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Jason Isaacs, Monster Family (Happy Family) (2017)

Your Daily Dracula – Jason Isaacs, Monster Family (Happy Family) (2017) and Monster Family 2 (2021)

This German animated film – directed by Holger Tappe, scripted by David Safier and Catharina Junk from a novel by Safier – jams the Universal Monsters/Munsters archetypes onto the template of The Incredibles (thereby prefiguring the Mom-becomes-a-star theme of The Incredibles 2).  With (in the export version) a British voice cast, it has some sleek, slinky design going for it but is also on the forgettable side – it’s certainly no competition for the Hotel Transylvania franchise.

Dracula (voiced by Jason Isaacs*) is a supervillain type with an outfit that owes more to Magneto than Bela Lugosi, and is getting broody in his huge castle-cum-lair with only non-hilarious three comedy bats and a humpbacked Renfield (Ewan Bailey) for company … when his cellphone rings, it’s Emma Wishbone (Emily Watson), a New York bookstore manager-housewife-klutz who is trying to rent fangs for a fancy-dress party and Drac is instantly smitten with her.  The vampire happens to have Baba Yaga (Catherine Tate) imprisoned, and sets her free with an amulet to cast a spell that’ll turn Emma into a vampire (with tight Kate Beckinsale-ish black trousers) but which overspills so that Emma’s family also become monsters … sleepy, overworked husband Frank (Nick Frost*) – whose running joke involves green fog flatulence – becomes a goofy Frankenstein Monster … angsty, shy wallflower daughter Fay (Jessica Brown Findlay) turns into a mummy, which seems like a raw deal until it turns out she has sandstorm-summoning powers like in the 1999 Mummy movie … and bullied nerd son Max (Ethan Rouse) turns into a puppyish werewolf.

The story bounces around from New York (where most of the significant characters have British accents) to the London Eye (a site of magic yada yada) to the deserts of Egypt (with Daniel Ben Zenou as Imhotep, here a throwaway surplus master fiend) to that supervillain lair in Transylvania where Dracula decides that if he can’t have Emma (spoiler: he can’t) he’ll shoot a super-snowflake (think Ice-9 from Cat’s Cradle) into the Sun and end the world.  The monster family combine their various monster powers to stop him.  This has a few decent designs (Dracula’s stealth plane) and the topline cast put some oomph into it, but the story is tiresome, all the characters are whiny, and even conoisseurs of fart humour will barely manage a smirk at the umpteenth gaseous eruption.

*the end credits switch Isaacs and Frost’s credits, and no one bothered to fix it.

Monster Family 2

This follow-up to Monster Family is even more closely modelled on The Incredibles than the original, literally putting some major monsters (Jason Isaacs’ Dracula, Catherine Tate’s Baba Yaga) in a deep freeze for most of the film – which involves a mock-benevolent duo of arrogant geniuses, Maddox and Marlene Starr (Daniel Ben Zenou, Emma Tate), sending their young daughter agent Mila (Emily Carey) around the world kidnapping the likes of Nessie, the Yeti and King Konga because their immortal monster energies are needed to power a machine that’s doing something evil they claim will save the world.  Mila abducts Baba Yaga at the church before she can marry Renfield (Ewan Bailey), a holdover plot bit from the first film, and that prompts foulup kid Max Wishbone (Ethan Rouse) to reinvoke the curse that turns him into a werewolf … and gives the rest of his family makeovers, with Dad becoming a grunting Frankenstein Monster (Nick Frost) who keeps saying ‘ooftah’, Mom (Emily Watson) turning into a slinky vampire and Sis (Jessica Brown Findlay) becoming a hypnotic mummy.  The film seems impatient with its own premise – being monsters doesn’t really make that much difference to the characters (though note Dad’s weird semi-gay bonding with the Yeti), and the storyline is mostly about schlubby Max warming up to nemesis Mila, who of course comes to realise the Starrs are in the wrong.  The animation is slick but unmemorable – the fart jokes are replaced by losing-trousers jokes, three comedy bats aren’t that funny, and it’s all a bit hectic and charmless.  Some nice sleek designs though.


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