Not bad but mostly forgettable, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is still brimming with Genndy Tartakovsky’s visual inventiveness but is light on everything else.
I’ve often wondered what the point of Adam Sandler is, and unfortunately Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation doesn’t provide an answer. I’m still none the wiser as to how he keeps securing lucrative employment, although I suspect it might be because he’s able, somehow, to turn any live-action or animated project he works on into one big, all-expenses-paid lark. It’s up to the studios and the audience and, recently, Netflix, to foot the bill, and all you have to sacrifice to enjoy the time off alongside him is your artistic integrity. Most of Hollywood never had much of that to begin with.
Luckily, even though it lacks any insight regarding Sandler’s appeal, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is nonetheless a better time than, say, Sandy Wexler or The Week Of, mostly because you only have to endure Sandler’s nasal whine rather than the full range of his acting. In it he plays Dracula, the proprietor of Hotel Transylvania, which in this universe is a monster hotspot. In the first film, Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), married a human (Adam Sandberg); in the second one they had a son.
In case you haven’t already deduced from the title, this third film concerns a family holiday, as Mavis, sensing Dracula needs a break, books a cruise for him and his movie-monster mates. Aboard is Frankenstein (Kevin James), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), the Invisible Man (David Spade) and Drac’s old-school father, Vlad (Mel Brooks). But the cruise is really a ruse – poetry! – set up by notorious vampire hunter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and his daughter, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the latter of whom Dracula promptly falls in love with.
What ensues is, predictably, a lot of comfortable, recycled comedy, while the supporting players get a beat or two to show off a particular quirk. Kids will like Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation; it’s the third in a franchise, and stuffed with familiar faces, and relaxes into an easy-going tone that’s welcoming and unchallenging. None of that’s a criticism, either. Plenty of the adults who buy the tickets to these things and have to sit through them don’t expect or desire much more, including me. Genndy Tartakovsky (the originator of The Clone Wars animated series), who co-writes and directs, takes great pleasure in the setting, often filling the screen with visual ingenuity, and his sharp sense of character design remains the best thing about the series.
But in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation those characters, as nice-looking as they may be, feel noticeably less engaging, as does the flimsy plot they’re shackled to. The jokes are easier, less inspired, and even Tartakovsky’s inventiveness starts to taper off at about the halfway point, as the characters find themselves in scenarios that should be perfectly-suited to his style but turn out to be dull pastiches. Most egregious of all, though, is the relationship between Dracula and Ericka, which takes up most of the plot and is unforgivably dull, for adults and, I suspect, for children too. But if this movie contributes anything worthwhile to kiddie franchise-filmmaking, it’s a sense that relationships aren’t worth anybody’s time. That’s probably a valuable lesson for the young ones to learn.