Adam Sandler and his spooky pals take a “Summer Vacation” in Hotel Transylvania and remind us all of the power of acceptance and understanding.
Even on a good day, it’s easy to feel like America has turned into a horror movie. Where the terrors of “The Purge” franchise feel all too real outside of the theater. The need to escape to the movies looms large this summer, not just to beat the heat. But to feel good again. “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” delivers this and more, promising a great time for children, parents, and fans of the funny franchise. But it also holds a timely message — one of acceptance, love, and tolerance of those different from us. That is especially needed right now.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky returns to the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise for the third time, despite initial reports. That he would be moving on to new projects. Tartakovsky brings back all the threads that have made the first two entries so loved. But the animation feels even more stunning than ever, thanks in part to the film’s aquatic locales.
But be forewarned, “Hotel Transylvania 3” takes a very decided stance on whether or not “La Macarena” is evil,. The summer dance craze of yesteryear just might make a comeback. Or maybe not. Kids have short-term memories these days, right?
“Summer Vacation” kicks off with a short prequel.
Which introduces Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) long-time nemesis. Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). Whose mission has long been to wipe out Dracula and his monster friends from the planet. Of course, Van Helsing doesn’t prevail, and as Dracula easily disposes of him once again. He imagines what it would be like for monsters to be able to take a vacation somewhere nice.
Back in the present day, that place has become Hotel Transylvania. Which Dracula and his beloved daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). They have turned into the premier spot for monsters to vacation and get married. But wedding planning and attending to everyone else’s relaxation needs gets tiring, and most of all, Dracula is lonely. He longs to meet someone new. But as he explains to his friends, monsters only “zing,” or find true love, once. With Mavis’ mother now gone, Dracula believes he’s destined to be alone forever.
Mavis, misinterpreting her father’s loneliness for exhaustion, books the entire family onto a monster cruise as a chance. That relax and spend some quality time together.
Once on the ship, Dracula is enamored with the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), and much to his surprise. He “zings” and is completely unable to speak. That turning his speech into classic Sandler gobbledygook that Ericka tries to imitate, mistaking it for Transylvanian. It’s just one funny moment in a film filled with laughs for parents and kids alike.
Naturally, Ericka is harboring a dark secret: She is really the great-granddaughter of Dracula’s nemesis. Van Helsing, and the two are scheming to steer the entire ship full of monsters towards their doom, to the lost city of Atlantis. Where a secret weapon awaits in the ocean’s depths. But Mavis isn’t quite comfortable with the idea of her father finding romance. Her suspicions of Ericka, paired with the fact that a “zing” never lies, could throw a few wrenches into the sinister plans.
If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It’s that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life.
In the case of “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,”. Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler ) learns it’s possible to zing more than once. As he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third offering in the offbeat look at the world of ghouls. The monsters doesn’t come close to having the same zing as the first or second offering.
It’s fun, and director Genndy Tartakovsky (“The Powerpuff Girls”) knows how to keep the action moving. Because of all his work in television animation. But the change of approach when dealing with Dracula coupled with the setting switch leaves the production just a little light on zing.
“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” picks up with the getaway destination for creatures doing booming business.
Things are going so well that a break is needed and the group books passage on the first monster cruise. Which will take them from the Bermuda Triangle to the found city of Atlantis. The trip becomes a monster version of “The Love Boat” as Dracula does what he has thought was impossible: He falls in love again. The problem is she’s the last in the long line of Van Helsings, who have made it their life’s work to kill Dracula.
The most enjoyable part of the first two films was how every nerve in Dracula’s batty body was stretched to the limit by being a single father and grandfather. In “Hotel Transylvania,” the problem was that a human who had found the spa for the supernatural. That fell in love with Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez ). The follow-up film had Dracula and his buddies trying to bring out the monster in his half-human, half-vampire grandson. That as a way of keeping Mavis from leaving the hotel.
Seeing Dracula flabbergasted makes for plenty of fun. Because Sandler has a way of making his voice sound both commanding and confused. It’s not quite the same when his emotional confusion comes from Dracula falling in love with the captain of the cruise ship. This just doesn’t give Sandler the same broad approach to playing flustered that he had in the other two movies.
There’s also something a little disconcerting about the action shifting from the hotel to the ship.
In the hotel, Dracula is pulled between his personal and professional problems. Once he leaves the hotel, half the angst is gone.
That being said, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” is a visual splendor, from the fun way the creatures are portrayed to the pacing. Keeping Tartakovsky as director of all three films creates a fluid sense of comedy and look.
Because he has worked on so many different television projects. That from “2 Stupid Dogs” to “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” Tartakovsky understands how to handle anything from animated slapstick comedy to action sequences. If you are a fan of Tartakovsky’s “Dexter’s Laboratory,”. It will be obvious the inspiration for Ericka comes from the wildly silly and charmingly annoying character of Dee Dee.
The best examples of both can be seen in the sequences dealing with the werewolf couple of Wayne ( Steve Buscemi ) and Wanda (Molly Shannon). The parents of a continuously growing pack is a sight gag that always works. That plus it features the most energy of any of the monstrous characters. The fact the world-weary couple get a break from their children is both funny and a nice wink to the parents in the audience.
Rating: PG (for some action and rude humor)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Kids & Family
Directed By: Genndy Tartakovsky
Stars: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez
Written By: Genndy Tartakovsky, Michael McCullers
In Theaters: Jul 13, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Sep 25, 2018
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Animation
It’s crass, culturally bankrupt cash-grabbing that celebrates the worst, most obnoxious aspects of a globally popular Hollywood genre (kids’ animation).
The whole thing, with its joyless and incessant parade of sub-Tex Avery quirks, looks as if it has been generated by some sort of automated software: a non-entertainment bot.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is a summer treat worth savoring, and a reminder that if we can see past our differences, we’ll find we’re not that different after all.
Delivers reliably on the series’ humble promise of sugared-up monster slapstick. The film is pleasingly mild and distracting.