Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) is the daughter of Dracula (Adam Sandler) and she suffers from Little Mermaid Syndrome. She just turned 118 -- legal in vampire years --and wants out of the stifling cocoon of the world she knows, a for-monsters-only resort run by her over-protective father. Dad, however, understands that beyond the walls of his safe haven lies the world of hostile humans and their monster-murdering ways.
Along comes a human tourist-bro (Andy Samberg). Mavis falls for his chill, adventurous ways, Drac disguises the boy as a Frankenstein's monster-like creature to keep him safe, misunderstandings occur, prejudice blooms and crumples, and the dividing line between the living and the undead finds itself blurred by -- what else? -- the great forces of marketing, pop culture and Twilight (the movie's opinion on this unexpected turn of historical events amounts to casual amusement rather than resentment over the branding of fringe culture into salable product, so don't expect anything more).
You can go all the way back to Mad Monster Party to find the inspiration for this kid-centric 3D cartoon, with the rest of it pruned from the gnarly branches of The Nightmare Before Christmas. But your children probably haven't seen those movies yet, so for them it'll all seem fresh and, more importantly for adults, hypnotic. The packed house of elementary school-aged monster fans at the press screening I attended didn't fidget, yell, run up and down the aisles or bother their grown-up chaperones in any way that I could discern. They also didn't get the occasional adult-level jokes designed to fly past their understanding, which is just as well. And like most children's films that don't have a solidly written ending, it resorts to inoffensive Black Eyed Peas-level party jams to ramp up excitement before the closing credits, complete with AutoTuned monster-singing and vampire rapping. Why not?
Adults have less to accept without question but more witty gags to laugh at thanks to the script, co-written by Saturday Night Live's TV Funhouse guy Robert Smigel, and a happily irreverent, fast pace from director Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack/Dexter's Laboratory/Powerpuff Girls). If you, the non-kid ticket buyer, want more than simple childlike entertainment, consider seeing the darker, more mature ParaNorman instead. This is Halloween candy: processed sugar that tastes great. Enjoy in moderation, brush when you're done, and don't fret about it too much.