Monday, July 16, 2018

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation ** / *****
Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky.
Written by: Michael McCullers & Genndy Tartakovsky based on character created by Todd Durham.
Starring: Adam Sandler (Dracula), Andy Samberg (Johnny), David Spade (Griffin), Selena Gomez (Mavis), Kathryn Hahn (Ericka Van Helsing), Steve Buscemi (Wayne), Mel Brooks (Vlad), Fran Drescher (Eunice), Keegan-Michael Key (Murray), Kevin James (Frank), Molly Shannon (Wanda), Chris Parnell (Stan the Fishman), Chrissy Teigen (Crystal), Joe Jonas (The Kraken), Genndy Tartakovsky (Blobby / Baby Blobby), Joe Whyte (Puppy), Aaron LaPlante (Captain Gremlin / Gremlin Stewardess).
It’s hard to hate the Hotel Transylvania movies – they are kind of dull, but innocuous with enough in them to keep them from being painful to sit through, but not really enough to keep you fully engaged. They are designed for kids to enjoy – and for there to be just enough in them for their parents that the sit is not painful to endure. The third film in this franchise is now out, and it kind of feels like the filmmakers didn’t really have a plot for this one, so they kind of threw one together on the fly. The background detail and character design is the best thing about this movie – it’s true of the other movies in the series as well – but this time out it was only the throwaway details that really worked for me at all.
The third film in the franchise finds Dracula (Adam Sandler) lonely and overworked running his hotel for monsters. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) decides that what her dad needs is a vacation – so she books him, and all the other popular characters in the series, on a monster cruise. After the best extended sequence in the movie (by a long shot) – a flight on “Gremlins Airways” – where the entire crew is made up of those little guys from the classic Twilight Zone episode – everyone arrives on the cruise ship – not know the whole thing is an elaborate trap set by Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and his great granddaughter, Erica (Kathryn Hahn). Complicating things is that Dracula “zings” on Erica – meaning he falls in love with her at first sight.
The biggest problem with Hotel Transylvania 3 is that this has always been a series that is better around the edges than it is at its main plot – and this time, the main plot pretty much takes up the entire narrative. There really is no reason for any of the characters who aren’t Dracula to be on the cruise – other than they are popular, and it is a cruise ship so they need a lot of monsters around – but we really go through long stretches where we don’t see the other characters (two of them literally get locked in a closet for almost the entire film). The film is still at its best around the edges – other than the Gremlins flying the plane, my favorite moment was a complete throwaway involving the Chupacabra that is over in about five seconds.
It is clear that the filmmakers – including director Genndy Tartakovsky – have a genuine love for the old monster movies, and enjoy bringing them to animated life. The characters look great here – as they always have. What’s lacking is really any reason to care about what’s happening in the film. It’s such a dull story that the film doesn’t even provide much in the way of set pieces to add some visual excitement – something beyond the design of the characters and the backdrop to be interesting.
The film will likely remain popular with its demographic – my 6 and 4 year olds had a fine time at the movie. And, like the previous installments, the time passes pleasantly enough as you watch. There’s just not as much here as there was in the previous two films – and even those felt flimsy.

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