2.5 out of 5 stars.
It’s a bit odd seeing a movie like “Hotel Transylvania” getting a release date in the middle of July, but it makes sense considering that the latest film in the hit animated franchise is titled “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.” And if you think that means this movie will be any different from the previous two films, you’re wrong. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your take on the series.
The first film revolved around Dracula’s relationship with his daughter Mavis. The second film focused on his relationship with his grandson, Dennis. In this film, Dracula (voiced again by Adam Sandler) is looking for love for the first time since his wife passed away, soon after Mavis was born. He is understandably hesitant at the prospect of dating, and Mavis (Selena Gomez) interprets his weird behavior as a result of stress from working so hard running the hotel. She decides they need to get away for a bit and spend time together as a family, so she books a monster cruise for her, Dracula, her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg), their son Dennis, and their monster friends. Dracula unexpectedly zings (monster speak for falling in love at first sight) with their ship’s human captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), but Ericka has other plans for him and the other monsters.
The same voice cast and many of the same characters from the previous films are back for this one, including Frank (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the invisible man (David Spade), and Murray the mummy (Keegan-Michael Key). “Hotel Transylvania 3” is less of a homage to classic monster movies (in part due to the characters being away from their normally spooky surroundings for the first time), but there’s still a good amount there for those fans to enjoy, particularly the creative character design. There are lots of wacky, colorful creations in this movie, and lots of wacky animation. The folks at Sony Animation aren’t striving for realism here; they are exaggerating as much as possible, pushing their elastic characters to the limit in terms of movement and expression, and making this fast-paced film more fun to watch. Animator/producer/writer extraordinaire Genndy Tartakovsky is back as director and co-writer of this film, which makes it easy to see why “Hotel Transylvania” pushes the limits in some ways—but also makes it hard to understand why these movies aren’t a tad bit better.
Let’s face it: sure, there are a few jokes and references thrown in there for the adults, but overall, the “Hotel Transylvania” movies are made for kids, and “Summer Vacation” is no exception. There’s a lot of immature humor, slapstick, and dancing to upbeat pop songs. A lot of the gags merit at least a chuckle, and the film keeps moving along at the right pace to entertain and hold the attention of any age viewer. But the goofiness outweighs the emotion and story’s message, which isn’t all that different from its predecessors: that monsters and humans should be able set aside their differences and get along, no matter what they look like or how they live. This message could have been hammered home a bit stronger though, instead of haphazardly tacked on at the end.
Like its predecessors, “Hotel Transylvania 3” isn’t great, but it also isn’t bad. It’s just an average film, with an amusing precise, zippy animation, mildly funny jokes, and a sweet if unsubstantial message about family. It’s the sort of movie that a young child could watch and love, but revisit it years later and find that it isn’t quite as great as they remembered it. But that’s alright, because this movie ultimately exists to serve one purpose: to entertain families. And it does at least manage to do that.
Runtime: 97 minutes. Rated PG.