"A delightful Halloween treat for kids and easy-to-please adults.”
Following the success of the first film in 2012, Count Drac and his monster squad are back in Hotel Transylvania 2 with returning director Genndy Tartakovsky. This time around, a pint-sized addition to the family will further attest and convince Papa Drac that the world is indeed changing.
Drac (voiced by Adam Sandler), owner-manager of Hotel Transylvania, is busy once again. Abolishing his exclusively-monster guest policy, Drac has opened his hotel to humans also. With that, the big wedding of his feisty 125-year-old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), to her slacker red-headed human beau, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), is underway. The celebration thus unites the human and monster worlds. Soon, Mavis gives birth to her adorable red-curled son, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), which thrilled Drac to the bones.
Fast forward and Dennis’ fifth birthday is approaching. Drac is worried that his grandson has not yet developed fangs or grown wings. Though he constantly putters that he is fine with what Dennis becomes, he has trouble accepting the possibility that the child will never be a vampire. Meanwhile, overprotective mom Mavis feels uncertain of the child-friendliness and security of the hotel. Entrusting the child’s care to Drac for a while, Mavis and Jonathan travel to Santa Cruz, visit Jon’s parents (Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman), and check out if the place is the best environment to raise Dennis. Meanwhile, Drac and his ghastly team: Frank (Kevin James), werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Murray the mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) and the Invisible Man (David Spade), embark on a road trip to teach Dennis on the basics of being a monster, hoping that his inner vampire will finally be awakened.
Compared to the original film, Hotel Transylvania 2 has bigger story and deeper character development. While the first film explores the relationship of dad-and-daughter vampires in the face of changing world, the sequel complicates this dynamics with the arrival of half-human, half-vamp child. In some way, Drac’s viewpoint of accepting Dennis no matter what he is (even as a unicorn!) yet secretly harboring a different wish strikes social metaphor relating to gender, race or even class when it comes to matters on love and life. In essence, both films in the franchise are about tolerance and open-mindedness.
Similar to the first film, the present feature elaborates how the world has moved on while Drac remains bounded by his ancient beliefs and ideals. Such details are described in vivid and bouncy frames. Gone is the creepiness of the dark forest where Drac used to haunt as it is now crowded with busy tourists. Gone is the old vampire training camp; instead, it is replaced with a child-friendly facility where the fanged kiddoes play badminton, sing jolly campfire songs, and catch their first meek mice. Best of all, gone is the towering wobbly platform for practicing bat-turning; instead, there is a playground slide equipped with nets. Drac’s squad is even more in tuned with modernity, evident with Frank’s comfy thrill taking selfies with humans, Invisible Man starring in a best-selling workout video, and even Murray the Mummy knowing how to use a mobile navigation app.
The movie has a breakneck pace that matches its snappy comedic formula. Slapstick gags and physical humor are abundant such as Mavis’ efforts to childproof the hotel and everything in it, Drac’s difficulty using touchscreen with his long fingernails, vampire’s version of yoga, and Jonathan’s parents’ attempt to make Mavis feel at home by adorning her room with Halloween decorations. They are mostly funny but gags of such nature only generate the briefest of laughter. The arrival of Drac’s human-hating dad (Mel Brooks) is also a welcome surprise; wish he came earlier though. Lastly, like most animated films, the flick ends with a groovy musical number courtesy of Fifth Harmony’s “I’m In Love with a Monster.” That and their other hit “Worth It” add extra great vibe to the movie.
Hotel Transylvania 2 is certainly a kid-pleasing entertainment which may solicit good nods from the adults. It is not a bad sequel but not exceptional as well; it is just alright. For Sandler who recently has a streak of bad comedy, particularly his latest Pixel, the movie is a surprising delight.
Production companies: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, LStar Capital
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Mel Brooks, Keegan-Michael Key, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Megan Mullaly, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, Rob Riggle
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenwriters: Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler
Producer: Michelle Murdocca
Executive producers: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Robert Smigel, Ben Waisbren
Production designer: Michael Kurinsky
Editor: Catherine Apple
Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh