×

Film Review: ‘Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation’

The third and worst entry in Adam Sandler's animated monster series boards a hotel on water and sinks below the waves.

Director:
Genndy Tartakovsky
With:
Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Jim Gaffigan, Kathryn Hahn, Asher Blinkoff, Chris Parnell, Joe Jonas, Chrissy Teigen, Mel Brooks.
Release Date:
Jul 13, 2018

Rated PG  1 hour 37 minutes

In the first “Hotel Transylvania,” Count Dracula’s refusal to conform to the clichés of vampire legend (“I don’t say ‘bleh, bleh, bleh'”) was a mantra for the whole movie, a fast-paced and joke-filled riff on monster mythos that, in its best moments, played like a self-contained Looney Tunes version of “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” After that mildly pleasant surprise, the sequel mostly abandoned the monster hotel conceit in favor of a lackadaisical venture into the human world and Drac’s vain attempt to coax fangs out of his half-human grandson. Now “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” by far the worst of the series, spends virtually no time in the hotel and runs out of commentary on classic monsters, despite renewing the rivalry between Dracula and the vampire slayer Van Helsing. In the dead of summer, younger audiences won’t likely care that it’s blah, blah, blah, and it seems destined to drain another $150 million out of parents’ pockets.

There’s a sliver of cleverness in the opening sequence, which flashes back to 1897, when Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) was the young and determined Wile E. Coyote to Drac’s elusive Road Runner. Blueprint after blueprint, gadget after gadget, the vampire hunter was always easily thwarted by Drac (Adam Sandler), who combines a sixth sense with eternal good fortune. Cut to the present day as their paths cross once again on a cruise ship specifically catering to monsters, a “hotel on water” that’s as close to justifying the title as the film ever gets. Drac’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) plans the ocean getaway as a surprise for her father, who’s forever the host and never the guest, and the entire Drac Pack comes along, including Frankenstein (Kevin James), the werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), the mummy Murray (Keegan-Michael Key), and the invisible man Griffin (David Spade), as well as other family members and creatures.

Once on board, the heartsick Drac “zings” on the fetching Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the ship’s captain, who happens to be Van Helsing’s wicked great-granddaughter. Below deck, the original Van Helsing still lives as part-man/part-machine, like a rickety Immortan Joe, and he hatches an apocalyptic scheme to kill off all the monsters once the ship reaches its final destination. But in the meantime, Ericka can’t help trying to kill the oblivious, moony-eyed Drac herself at every opportunity, even though it turns her into a foolish Wile E. Coyote type, too. Mavis has her suspicions about Ericka’s intentions (monsters are only supposed to “zing” once, and that happened already with her late mother), but the Count’s sitcom cluelessness belies his famous powers of seduction.

Director Genndy Tartakovsky, who has helmed all three “Hotel Transylvania” films, is a gifted animator with an affinity for elongated figures, sharp angles, and expressive features, and he likes to keep the gags coming at a breathless pace. But it’s the screenplay for “Hotel Transylvania 3,” which he wrote with veteran comedy scribe Michael McCullers (“The Boss Baby,” “Baby Mama”), where he falls woefully short on inspiration. The A-plot hijinks of Drac and the Van Helsings are as inspired as the film gets, and that cat-and-mouse game fritters out by the halfway mark. The gallery of dire B-plots barely has anything to do with monsters at all: Mavis’ son Dennis sneaks their giant dog on board in a trench coat, Frankenstein nurses a gambling problem, Wayne and his wife try to relax after dropping dozens of their rowdy pups at daycare, and Drac’s ancient father (Mel Brooks) struts around in a skimpy mankini.

Tartakovsky’s instincts are to keep the action moving quickly and let one piece of kid-friendly slapstick tumble into the next, but when the jokes are this consistently uninspired, it doesn’t matter how fast they’re dispensed. The problem with the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise is that all the conflict was settled after the first one: Mavis was once a sheltered kid longing to see the world and now she has. Her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) was once a backpacking hippie who wandered into monster land and now he’s one of the gang. Monsters and humans were once natural adversaries and now they’re not. And that’s to say nothing of the hotel in Transylvania, which barely gets 15 minutes in the last two movies total.

That leaves “Hotel Transylvania 3” to look too much like another lackadaisical gathering of Sandler and his frequent on-screen chums, like a PG-rated “Grown Ups” at sea. They seem like the ones taking the vacation, and it’s audiences who are left to pick up the tab.

RELATED CONTENT:

Film Review: 'Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation'

Reviewed at AMC River East 21, Chicago, June 7, 2018. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production: (Animated) A Columbia Pictures release of a Sony Pictures Animation production. Producer: Michelle Murdocca.

Crew: Director: Genndy Tartakovsky. Screenplay: Tartakovsky, Michael McCullers. Camera (color). Editor: Joyce Arrastia. Music: Mark Mothersbaugh.

With: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Jim Gaffigan, Kathryn Hahn, Asher Blinkoff, Chris Parnell, Joe Jonas, Chrissy Teigen, Mel Brooks.

More Film

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summertime Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summertime Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summertime Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content