Plain, Simple Tom’s thoughts on . . . “The 355” (2022) and “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” (2022)

Another two films for me to talk about today – one a new globetrotting action film, the other being the fourth film in a popular animated franchise – and, spoiler alert, neither of them are much good. But let’s discuss them anyway . . .

The 355 (2022)

★ ★

What is The 355 about? Well, it’s about five agents (played by Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz and Bingbing Fan) who are part of different intelligence agencies from all over the world who, despite having initial gripes with each other, have to reluctantly team up in order to track down a device that could take control of certain technologies and potentially start World War Three. Don’t you just hate those things? But then again, where would films like these be without those pesky lil’ McGuffins?

As you may have gathered, director Simon Kinberg’s film offers few surprises as it gives us a mediocre story that we’ve seen play out in many other features (who even designs those pivotal McGuffin thingies?) and the “coming together” of our central agents is too forced and it’s hard to take a genuine interest in whether they succeed or not. Plus, there’s a particularly awkward and badly written scene wherein we see the dropping of hostilities and the unification of the team but rather than inspire confidence, it turns out to be quite cringe worthy because the dialogue goes almost exactly like this: “Let’s all drop our guns. We need to work together. We need to trust each other. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Oof.

The script really is wonky (heck, one scene sees Diane Kruger’s boss spell out what kind of character she is, namely a reckless lone wolf with trust issues) and additionally, the fight scenes are very often too frantic and unfocused, certain plot developments are completely predictable, and our leading ladies don’t quite have enough genuine chemistry. Although Diane Kruger shines and is, admittedly, a total badass.

So in the end, The 355 is bang average. I will admit that it ended up being downright watchable after a certain amount of time but it’s also a flawed film that will quickly be forgotten about as it is too generic and unoriginal.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022)

★ ★

In the fourth entry of the animated franchise, Drac (Brian Hull) is getting ready to retire from running his beloved hotel, making plans to hand over the keys to Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg), but, fearing that the excitable Johnny will ruin his hotel, Drac lies and tells his son-in-law that it’s forbidden for a human to own the establishment. Not wanting to disappoint his wife, Johnny turns to Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and his device that can turn monsters into humans and vice versa, going on to successfully transform himself into a monster but through a bizarre turn of events, Drac and the rest of the pack get transformed into humans. Van Helsing explains that the “cure”, a new crystal, can only be found at a certain location in South America and so human Drac and monster Johnny embark on a road trip to find the crystal, but when Mavis discovers that Johnny is in great danger, she, Erika (Kathryn Hahn), and the now human Drac Pack must follow close behind in order to save them.

First of all, I have to admit that I only watched the first two films in the series last year (I haven’t yet seen Monster Vacation) and while I actually enjoyed the first one, I found the immediate sequel to be alright, though clearly not as effective as its predecessor. So although I don’t consider myself a fan, per se, I saw no harm in checking out this fourth entry (especially as it was free on Prime Video) and having now seen it, I’m of the opinion that it’s weaker than films one and two.

In a nutshell, I found the animation to be lacklustre and silly (if animation can indeed be called “silly”), clearly not on the same level as something like The Mitchells vs.The Machines, and it appears as though the film would be best suited for younger audiences, given its childish and goofy overall appearance. The script also holds no appeal for a viewer of my age because it tries hard to be funny when it very rarely is (I managed perhaps a single chuckle throughout the whole thing) and it also attempts to pull at the heartstrings but all of this effort was in vein because it’s too hard to care about the central characters any more. Plus, it sucks that all the “transformations” were shown to us in the trailer – maybe the film would’ve been better if it had had a few surprises up its sleeve.

So yeah, Transformania is a diverting enough, but also wholly forgettable animation that will probably be most suited to young kids as the animation is goofy and the story isn’t clever or interesting.

But Brian Hull does manage a very accurate Adam Sandler impersonation.

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