Synopsis – While on a vacation with his family, Count Dracula makes a romantic connection.
My Take – Considering the market is dominated by Disney and Pixar, there are only a few animated films today that consistently maintain their quality, especially when it comes to the matter of their sequels. Released back in 2012, this Adam Sandler led Sony Pictures Animation produced animated feature stuffed with talents such as Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, and Steve Buscemi to name a few, was a major success commercially. With the 2015 sequel being a bigger success (due to being a better film), it comes as no surprise this year sees the release of the third film. Having thoroughly enjoying the first two offerings in the Transylvania brand, I can safely say this one too doesn’t disappoint. While a third installment usually has difficulty in maintaining the quality set by its predecessors, thankfully this Genndy Tartakovsky directed film still manages to be a decent and enjoyable film that the whole family will like.
It has the silly humor and goofy characters that make the kids laugh and it has a story that is both relatable and interesting to people of all ages. If you like Adam Sandler’s films like Grown Ups, this film is like an animated version with spooky monsters instead of people. It’s by no means a fantastic film, but for the third in the series it’s better than it should be. Sure, unlike other animated films, this series has received its own set of critical bashing, probably because they are headlined by Sandler, but looking at the weekend numbers, it’s quite evident how critic proof, like most Sandler films, this series has become. So anyone thinking of checking this film out likely already knows whether this film is for them, and if so will utterly disregard any opinions regarding the merits of this film.
The story follows Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), who years after running his famed hotel for monsters business has become pretty lonely and bored. Misunderstanding the situation, thinking he needs to spend more time with her, his daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), decides to take Dracula along her with husband Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) and her young son Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff), on cruise ship for monsters that is on route to the lost city of Atlantis.
Also inviting his pack of friends which includes Wayne/Wolf man (voiced by Steve Buscemi), his wife Wanda (voiced by Molly Shannon), Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James), his wife Eunice (voiced by Fran Drescher), Griffin, the Invisible Man (voiced by David Spade), Crystal (voiced by Chrissy Teigen), Griffin’s new girlfriend, Murray (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), an ancient mummy, Blobby (voiced by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Dracula’s Dad, Vlad (voiced by Mel Brooks). Initially angered by this, Dracula slowly begins enjoying himself and even finds a new crush in the mysterious yet charming cruise captain Ericka (voiced by Kathryn Hahn), unaware that she’s the great great granddaughter of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) who is planning to destroy all monsters starting with Dracula, with a secret weapon waiting for them in Atlantis.
Once you get to the third film in the series, you have to shake things up a bit, and the results are surprisingly quite good. As you could tell from the plot, the film is more of series of jokes strung together to make a film which is not a bad thing. Even though, there is something a little disconcerting about the action shifting from the hotel to the ship, as in the hotel, Dracula is pulled between his personal and professional problems, but once he leaves the hotel, half the angst is gone. That being said, the film doesn’t suck. It is a visual splendor, from the fun way the creatures are portrayed to the pacing, and by keeping Tartakovsky as director of all three films creates a fluid sense of comedy and look. While I am aware that I do not belong to the demographic this films belong to, the silly humor and constant use of physical comedy does manage to bring in a chuckle or so. There are also enough winning moments here to keep things hooting and howling, and although the story is so predictable that it doesn’t really matter that the trailer gave away the entire plot, it unfolds with enough momentum to keep you from checking the time every few minutes.
Here, director Genddy Tartakovsky, known for groundbreaking works, such as Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, brings out his zany and fast-paced direction to bring us some really creative scenarios, along with fantastic fast paced animation and some eye popping colors. This film’s creativity was so massive that it was clear that he and really turned around the creativity at Sony Picture Animation after the disastrous Emoji Film. My favorite had to be the Bermuda Triangle. I won’t give away what it looks like, but I’ll just say it was very creative what they did with it. The animation is truly some of the best looking that I’ve seen in recent years and continues to improve as each film comes out.
The characters are mostly pretty good. It was fun to see most of the characters again, Wayne and Wanda had a pretty funny scene together, and also seeing Jonathan and Mavis was also charming. It was also nice seeing more of Dennis and Winnie bonding together. Seeing them work to keep their giant dog hidden was so funny. I also really liked how the opening sequence quickly introduces us to the famous Dracula-Van Helsing rivalry and sets the stage for a grand adventure. All of these films share one commonality that being a kind of emotional center that humanizes a cast of monsters.
The first film shows Dracula as a sad single father with his daughter trying to learn how to be the best he can be for her. The second film has Mavis and her new husband having a baby and how Dracula adjusts to being a grandfather. And this new film is all about love and if Dracula can gain the strength to move on. For a children’s film, these are surprisingly deep subjects which is why most adults enjoyed these films. And instead of making these subjects go right over children’s heads, the films do a great job of explaining these subjects in a clear and relatable way. The film also has a charming humor to it for adults, presented in the form of a few witty interventions in the form of nostalgic songs and references.
Yet, the majority of the comedy is of course geared towards the little ones and those with a childish sense of humor. The film has loads of slapstick, over the top delivery of simplistic writing to get a laugh. In one of the many hilarious scenes, Dracula tells his smartphone that he is “looking for someone” (as in a date). “You want dim sum,” the phone repeats. He tells it plainly, “I am lonely.” “I understand,” replies his phone. “You want baloney!” Anyone who has ever experienced a communication problem with a phone, a phone representative, or any similar situation will certainly relate to the moment. Another example is the sequences dealing with the werewolf couple of Wayne and Wanda. The parents of a continuously growing pack is a sight gag that always works, plus it features the most energy of any of the monstrous characters. The fact the world-weary couple get a break from their children is both funny and a nice wink to the parents in the audience.
The series has always had an appropriate soundtrack to go with the themes of the film, and this film stays on this path again. The difference for this film is that it contains a few nostalgic songs that may confuse younger audience members and bring smiles to the older ones. While these legendary tracks are short lived, they do have the right timing to maximize their inclusion. If only they could have had more. However the biggest flaw of the film is the main antagonist, Van Helsing, who did not work at all. The last two films didn’t have a villain to a story and worked well without one and in this film, adding one just slowed down the film. Not only that, he was also not very funny. Plus, I did kind of miss Jonathan’s parents. They were pretty funny and I kind of think adding them to this film would’ve added some pretty funny humor. Also, the plot is rather one-note and forgettable, especially when compared to the standard of director Tartakovsky‘s other work.
Coming to the voice performances, well, you can say a lot about Adam Sandler’s acting and voices, but his roster of friends that follow him into any project he picks is impressive and provide for a believable dynamic between the characters. Sandler is often known for his crass, crude humor, but there’s a real sweetness alongside the silliness underlining his performances in his earlier films and that combination is present not only in Dracula’s character but also in these films as a whole. Seeing Dracula flabbergasted makes for plenty of fun because Sandler has a way of making his voice sound both commanding and confused. Kathryn Hahn’s Captain Ericka, I think, was a nice counterpart to Dracula because she can be exactly the same way. In supporting roles, Selena Gomez continues to shine, while Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan Michael-Kay, Jim Gaffigan, Fran Drescher, and Chrissy Teigen bring in their comedy chops in full force. At this point in time, the very fact that Mel Brooks, who at the age of ninety-two, continues to work is a celebration in its own. On the whole, ‘Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation‘ is a harmless and fun family film led by top notch animation and some mostly pretty good characters.
Directed – Genndy Tartakovsky
Rated – PG
Run Time – 97 minutes