Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 2

Hotel Transylvania 2
Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky.
Written by: Robert Smigel & Adam Sandler.
Starring: Adam Sandler (Dracula), Andy Samberg (Jonathan), Selena Gomez (Mavis), Kevin James (Frankenstein), Steve Buscemi (Wayne), David Spade (Griffin), Keegan-Michael Key (Murray), Asher Blinkoff (Dennis), Sadie Sandler (Winnie), Fran Drescher (Eunice), Molly Shannon (Wanda), Megan Mullally (Grandma Linda), Nick Offerman (Grandpa Mike), Dana Carvey (Dana), Rob Riggle (Bela), Mel Brooks (Vlad), Jonny Solomon  (Blobby), Chris Kattan (Kakie).

The knock on Adam Sandler for a while now is basically that he’s lazy – that he churns out basically the same thing time after time, and most of the time he doesn’t even appear like he’s trying. Hotel Transylvania 2 will hardly change people’s mind on that – it is very similar to the first film, and in fact similar to Grown Ups as well – as Sandler assembles his buddies (in this case Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and David Spade among others) and although they are monsters, they are basically bored suburban dads who have been tamed by years of marriage and child rearing, who just want a little chance to break free. Because this is an animated film aimed at children, it also includes a message about inclusion – and accepting who you are, and not trying to force others to be something they are not. All pretty standard stuff for an animated film – and executed well enough that my 4 year old daughter seemed to enjoy the 90 minute runtime well enough (even if she grew a little restless once we were out of popcorn). Hotel Transylvania 2 was made because the first film made money – and even if no one particularly liked it, that means a sequel was necessary – and no one seems to particularly like this one either, but it hit that box office sweet spot – long enough after Minions that parents are looking for something to take their kids to, and yet far enough before Peanuts or The Good Dinosaur that they may not want to wait for them. Watching the film is hardly a painful experience – it moves quickly, has a few moderately funny jokes, and isn’t as headache inducing as many animated films that assault the viewing with a non-stop barrage of color and action. But that’s hardly a recommendation, is it?

Last time you might recall that Dracula (Sandler) was raising his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) by himself at his monster only hotel, when a human, Jonathan (Andy Sandberg) inexplicably found the place – and Mavis and he ended up falling in love, much to Dracula’s chagrin, although eventually he came to terms with it. The plot of the second movie is that Mavis’ son Dennis is approaching his fifth birthday – and if his vampire fangs don’t come by then, they won’t come in at all – a real risk because he’s half human (apparently this is a world not unlike the Muppets, where in A Muppet Christmas Carol all of Kermit and Piggy’s boy kids were frogs, and all the girls were pigs – Dennis will either be a human or a vampire, not half and half, like Blade). Mavis thinks that Dennis may be better off being raised near Jonathan’s parents – in Santa Cruz – rather than Transylvania, if he is human that is. So Dracula conspires with Jonathan – who doesn’t want to leave – to get Mavis out of the way for a little while, so he and his buddies can find ways to bring out Dennis’ inner monster, one way or another.

Part of the problem with Hotel Transylvania 2 is that many of the jokes are essentially the same as the first film – where the idea was that it would hilarious to see all these monsters as just regular guys (and other than Selena Gomez, they’re all guys – and Gomez is stuck in the same role women in Sandler movies always seem to get stuck with – that is to be the stick-in-the-mud that ruins the guys fun). There are moments that work – I’m still a sucker for Steve Buscemi, and like his vocal work as a werewolf with hundreds of kids, who seems completely miserable, all the time). But those moments are too few and far between – as we spend too much time on too many uninspired and repeated gags that don’t much work, before ending with an action sequence that seems out of place with the rest of the film.

For its target audience, Hotel Transylvania 2 gets the job done – but not much else. When my daughter and I left some other movies, she cannot stop talking about them – when we left this one and I asked if she liked it, she said yes, and that was about it. She had fun watching the movie – but then again, 4 years olds seem to have fun watching just about anything animated (unless it involves a witch, which is the only thing my daughter seems to be afraid of – none of the monsters here seemed to scare her). The film is what it is – a fairly lazy and generic, but not completely painful animated kid’s movie – a way to bridge the gap between the animated hits of the summer, and the (hopefully superior) animated hits of American Thanksgiving/Christmas.

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