Movie Review: “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION

I was, you will know if you read the review, not a fan of “Hotel Transylvania 2.”   I thought the message was an awful, disgusting, one.  For this third film in the franchise, “Hotel Transylvania 3:  Summer Vacation,” still directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and still with Adam Sandler up front voicing Dracula, I am pleased to note that the message is nowhere near so abysmal.  However, that is in no small part because the movie barely has a message at all.

As the plot goes, we see Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) having decided that Dracula and everyone else needs a vacation from running other people’s vacations and consequently booking them all onto a cruise.  This is a little like a busman’s holiday as you rarely leave the hotel when on a cruise, something Dracula points out, but that issue isn’t the focus of the film.

Instead, we get the tale of Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and his family’s exceptionally long antagonistic relationship with Dracula.  The film in fact opens with Van Helsing attempting to kill Dracula more than a century before the present day.  On the cruise boat the Van Helsing family is represented by… well, no I’m not going to be accused of spoiling anything even if the film makes the whole thing clear at an early stage.

The point is this – over the course of the film, the Van Helsing family works their evil ways while the monsters enjoy themselves and Dracula “zings” for a second time in his life.  This last is moderately disconcerting as one of the ideas of the franchise is that monsters only fall in love—or “zing” as they say—once.  But, zing again Dracula does when he first sees the captain of the cruise ship, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn).  So, as the movie unfolds Dracula has to negotiate the new zing; his family and friends; and, once he learns of it, the evil represented by the Van Helsings.

It sounds like that is enough for an interesting, well-considered, film.  Yet, Tartakovsky does not plumb any of the questions.  The whole movie exists on little more than surface level.  How is it that they can all have been wrong about this zing?  “Hotel Transylvania 3” doesn’t bother trying to figure it out.  Instead, it is simply states that they have been, that Dracula has somehow zinged again, and the movie plows forward without a care.  Consequently, it feels more like a plot device than a considered action.

There is no problem in the movie that is anything more than a momentary one – things jump along at an incredible pace, propelled forward by the score from Mark Mothersbaugh (and DJ music from Tiësto).  This music is great fun to listen to, but at the same time it is incredibly overpowering in the film’s mix.  One feels pushed along the path of the film by the music rather than swept up by the overall aesthetic.  It is a movement made under duress.

The animation itself is beautiful, full of bright colors and exciting visuals.  The sequence about the airliner, owned by Gremlin Air, which brings the horde to the cruise is particularly great.  It is, additionally, one of the funniest bits in the movie.

And yet, it is impossible to watch this movie and not be rather disappointed with its decision to simply bob along the surface.  There are so many characters it offers up to the audience—Dracula; Mavis; Jonathan, Mavis’ husband (Andy Samberg); their kid, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff); Frankenstein (Kevin James); Eunice, his wife (Fran Drescher), the Wolf Man, Wayne (Steve Buscemi); Wanda, his wife (Molly Shannon); the Invisible Man, Griffin (David Spade); the Mummy, Murray (Keegan-Michael Key); Dracula’s father, Vlad (Mel Brooks); and more—that in order to have funny little bits with everyone, no one gets enough time for a true story.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” is undoubtedly bright and bouncy and loud enough to entertain children at the theater this summer, but it is not a film which will delight those who accompany that younger set to the theater.  It is certainly a step above the last film in the franchise, but it is still regrettable that it isn’t better.

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photo credit: Sony Pictures

 

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