It can be fun to revisit characters we’ve all come to feel some connection with. Sequels in movies allow just that, and can be welcome but are often nothing more than studios soaking every last bit of cash they can from the title. Watching Hotel Transylvania 2, a follow-up to the 2012 original–a mostly pleasant family animated film that clearly did one thing right, at least in the minds of those who financed–made a enough at the box office to greenlight a part two.
I always feel a little wary of being too critical on films, especially animated movies as I have a soft spot in my heart for the medium, but many are simply a waste of time, rushed out too soon and very poorly written. Hotel Transylvania 2 isn’t necessarily either of those, but does feel, well, lazy. Written by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel, the film is, like so many of this genre, just one long string of pop culture references and exaggerated sight gags that always leave another character with their mouth wide open and staring blankly. It’s old and tiresome but with the great cast of voice talent, including Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz, and Kevin James (with a number of past SNL alumni), there are a few chuckles to be had. It’s becoming pretty obvious that Sandler is best these days when he doing voice over.
This story is slight. Picking up where the last ended, Dracula (Sandler) opens his once monster’s-exclusive hotel to humans as his daughter Mavis (Gomez) marries Jonathan (Sandberg). They have a child, who grows quickly in the timeline, and as the first few years pass, appears to be without any vampire abilities, retaining more of the human aspects of his parents. This sends poor grandpa Dracula into a tailspin and forces him to try and coax the skills out of him. When Mavis and Jonathan travel to his parent’s house, Dracula offers to take care of little Dennis and seizes the opportunity to call upon his monster friends to train the boy, though nothing works. Believing the traits are lying dormant within the child and needs a boost to make them emerge, he tosses the four-year-old off a tall tower thinking it will bring forth the transformation into vampire bat. It doesn’t, and he catches him in time, but not before some campers film the incident and uploads it on to the internet. Predictably, this doesn’t go over very well with Mavis.
Then comes Dracula’s father, Vlad (Mel Brooks), late in the film, who hates humans and is shocked at what’s happening to his family and can’t accept the idea of non-vampires into the fold. You can pretty much guess what happens next. It’s great to hear Brooks still in fine form, but he comes and goes much too fast. As a children’s movie, Hotel Transylvania 2 is bright and colorful with lots of silly characters that flit about with herky-jerky movements that might get some laughs even if they can’t understand the jokes. It lacks any really charm or depth and one attempt for an emotional tug comes up short, but the silly voices and chaotic action should entertain younger viewers. From the giant green blob (Jonny Solomon) to the adorable werewolf kids, there’s plenty to keep the intended audience interested. It’s just too bad that director Genndy Tartakovsky spends too much time relying on quick gags and fabricated slapstick that may get a few giggles but can’t sustain the fun.