The latest chapter in the apparently popular Hotel Transylvania series, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, begins as many film sequels do these days—with a flashback. In a franchise built on good feelings and laughter, it’s finally time to introduce a proper adversary for Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his pack of monster friends, Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who has spent his entire adult life trying to track down the vampire.
We see the two square off against each other through the ages, with Van Helsing coming up short in his attempts to wipe of the Drac. By the time we make the jump to the present day, much time has passed since Van Helsing was last seen, so of course he must be long dead right? Right?!
Things are pretty much how we left them after the last Hotel Transylvania film. Drac is still single and running his hotel for monsters. His daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) are still raising their obnoxious son. All the regulars are still around, including Frank (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi, continuing to be the best things in these movies, as he’s swarmed with offspring), the invisible Griffin (David Spade), and Murray the mummy (Keegan Michael-Key). Drac’s father Vlad (Mel Brooks) shows up, still killing it with the ladies.
Seeing how hard Drac works at the hotel, Mavis gets the idea that the whole group should take a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle to get away from it all (although Drac doesn’t see the difference between his hotel and the ship, except its relationship to water). There’s also a level of hope that Drac might find a new lady friend, an idea he’s against until he meets the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), who seems to have taken a liking to him as well. After getting “zinged” by the captain, he now believes that you can experience love more than once in your lifetime, which is handy for a guy who never ages.
I don’t want to give away any of the film’s twists, but you can probably guess from the opening flashback that we aren’t quite done with Van Helsing, who does show up preserved in a rickety mechanical body that makes him even more monstrous that the monsters he’s trying to destroy (who knew that a Hotel Transylvania movie would be so front loaded with irony?). The most impressive things about Summer Vacation is the scale—the massive ship’s initial reveal, a big monster that shows up in the third act—all of which would look really great in 3D, I suspect. Director (and co-writer with Michael McCullers) Genndy Tartakovsky has long been one of my favorites, and he has a way of playing with angles, figures and shadows to really emphasize what makes characters and sets unique.
The film isn’t especially funny, but the presence of Chris Parnell voicing every single member of the ship’s fish crew had me cracking up for some reason. Being a fan of monster movies since I was a kid, I actually have a soft spot for the Hotel Transylvania films—there does seem to be a genuine love of the old Universal monster titles, and this one is no better or worse than the previous chapters. There are certainly better movies out right now (hell, there are better animated films out right now), but if you’d enjoyed these stories with only minor amounts of pain, you’ll do great and probably smile and giggle quite a bit. That’s the most I can promise.
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