(In French, In Theaters, July 2018) There is so little to say about Hotel Transylvania 3 that it leads directly to asking why the film was needed. There isn’t much more here than, indeed, a vacation episode with a little bit of romance for the lead character. The film spends almost no time at the titular hotel, instead taking refuge on an ocean liner for monsters and various stops along the way. There’s some antagonism between Dracula and the Van Helsing family, a dance-music-dominant finale, and an opponent-to-lovers arc (well, as much as can be included in a kids’ movie). Returning director Genndy Tartakovsky keeps thing running with more or less the same level of energy than his previous two instalments, with Adam Sandler once again turning in a better-than-usual voice performance to anchor the piece. As a film, it’s okay—not good, not bad, just sufficiently in-between to be acceptable family entertainment. I’d complain about missed opportunities in not going with a bigger idea, except that I’m not sure there is a bigger idea to be had—the Hotel Transylvania series is looking as if it’s settling in for cruise control and much more of the same. At least it’s not painful to watch, which is already better than many other kids’ movies these days.
(Video on Demand, February 2016) In developing a sequel, there’s a difficult balance to strike between offering more of the same, and offering just a little more than the original to satisfy. Hotel Transylvania 2, for all of its faults, actually manages to find this elusive balance: By moving forward the story a few years later, and by focusing the themes of parental anxieties onto another generation, it refreshes its own themes while still offering many of the same attributes that made the first film a success. Adam Sandler once again reprises his unusually sympathetic vampire-dad character, now faced with the possibility that his grandson may not actually be a vampire. Various hijinks ensue, bouncing back and forth between Transylvania and California in a world that is obviously not ours given its broad acceptance of real monsters. The set pieces are lively and if the film does seem to lose its way during an unremarkable third act, Hotel Transylvania 2 gives audiences what they expected, and what they’re ready to accept. The series remains firmly ensconced in the second tier of animated features, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.