When The Usual Suspects are away and Fantastic Fest is underway, the content creators come out to play! Animated Anarchy takes a bite out of the box office reviewing Hotel Transylvania 2!
Hotel Transylvania 2 picks up where the first one left off, where Dracula has accepted humans into his heart with the marriage between his daughter Mavis and the hapless human Jonathan. Now that humans are aware of the existence of monsters, Dracula feels uncertain over his grandson, who exhibits no signs of being a bloodthirsty, powerful creature of the night. Along with his pals Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Werewolf, The Invisible Man, and his father Vlad, Drac must decide if he wants to keep the vampire legacy alive in his grandson for better or worse.
The Hotel Transylvania series is a misfit in the current environment of animated features. The original came out in 2012, one of the finest years for animation movies, finding it’s own niche audience even though it never received any accreditation. As I’ve said before, I’m not really a fan of the first movie, as it uses such a stock, dull story without injecting much creativity into the actual premise with the Universal Monsters. However, the movie did remind us that Adam Sandler can still be a really entertaining, lovable actor when he’s reined in.
There would be no faith in the series if not for veteran animator Genndy Tartokovsky attached to direct. His legacy of Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Sym-Bionic Titan speaks for itself. Even though critics were harsh towards the first movie, Genndy’s influence overpowered the lazy trope recent Sandler movies are guilty for. A recent interview with Cartoonbrew.com brought up where the director’s future was heading, but he unveiled some telling details about Hotel Transylvania 2:
I think Adam and Robert Smigel really wanted to take control of the second film, because that’s kind of what they do. It’s an Adam Sandler project, and he’s running the show, to a degree. So Hotel Transylvania 2 was more difficult that way…With this film, there were more guidelines and rules set up front about how they wanted things to work.
So does this mean Hotel Transylvania 2 fall into the same trappings with Sandler and Smigel taking over? I can say…this is easily Adam Sandler’s best starring vehicle this year. Easily more watchable than the vestibule of nostalgic outrage known as Pixels or the fascinating failure that is The Cobbler. Hotel Transylvania 2 is very middle-of-the-road like the first one, but with a bizarre ratio of fewer story, more gags, increasingly spastic animation, and strange morals.
What’s noticeably off about Hotel Transylvania 2 is how the majority of the movie is basically Grown Ups, complete with old guys groaning about modern sensibilities. The centralized conflict is how the family is supposed to raise four-year-old Dennis, with Mavis’s squeaky clean, overly safe humanized child-rearing versus Drac’s traditional ways with uncensored violence and ghastly activities. There are light smatterings of discussion with some poorly drawn subtext of relating monsters to minorities, but these venues are just used as excuses for awkward jokes. Every scene ends with rubber band-style editing that immediately goes to another funny setup without a moment to rest. And all the jokes range from the fun puns from the first movie, to Family Guy-esque cutaways showing the monsters act silly.
Drac is the only full fleshed out monster in the whole film; it becomes glaringly apparent how unnecessary some of the side characters are. Considering how much Sandler’s entourage complains about human gentrification, they are just as domesticated as everyone else. There are lengthy, unfunny scenes in the middle where they try to show how out of touch the universal monsters are and it just made me aware of how these characters are just monsters in-name-only.
I did genuinely enjoy the climax of the movie, when the plot takes control and introduces Vlad, expertly voiced by Mel Brooks. He makes some clever gags at the expense of everyone hiding the human/monster relationship from him and he got the one genuine laugh from me that I was not expecting. The plot does crowbar in a last minute villain in a big intentional Popeye-influenced fight scene, but I much preferred it to the wet, drawn-out communication problems of the original Hotel Transylvania.
I believe what keeps Hotel Transylvania 2 above water is how sweet Drac’s relationship is with his grandson Dennis. Asher Blinkoff, a child of one of the animators, voices Dennis and he is just perfectly adorable playing this enthusiastic toddler. This might be the last movie since Big Daddy where Adam Sandler builds a genuine, loving bond with a kid that you can feel on screen. In most of Sandler’s movies, he uses children as a way to justify how good his characters are, but they always come off uncomfortably precocious or inexplicably weird. Dennis sounds and acts like a real child that audiences can relate to.
For what feels like a contracted studio picture, I felt Tartakovsky still put in a decent amount of effort in keeping the project cohesive. You can feel his influence on the production team from the abundance Tex Avery-inspired comedy and reactions. Since Hotel Transylvania 2 spends so much time telling with visual gags or showing off ghoulish designs, the overall flow feels intentionally manic. Sony put a lot of extra work into Drac’s specifically, because each scene showcases a new expression highlighting his cheeks or constantly-moving eyes.
The film never sinks into being flat out bad or boring, but at a grand total of 80 minutes there is no breathing room for anything deep. I can’t ignore the Happy Madison touches of the aimless story or his need to insert more of his comedian friends like Jon Lovitz, Allen Covert, and Chris Kattan so they can get paychecks. The original had more of that creative drive to play with the concept of monsters running a hotel and this doesn’t.
There’s nothing outright offensive or obnoxiously immature like in Eight Crazy Nights, but this is not an engaging film for adults. Kids will totally love this movie because of the throw-everything-at-the-wall style of comedy and the constantly moving, wacky characters. 2015 is a slim year for animated movies outside of Pixar and this just falls into the camp of being mildly light and amusing, but ultimately forgettable.
My Arbitrary Rating for Hotel Transylvania 2: 4 1/2 out of 10 Sweet, Brain-Hurting Slur-pays.
Felt good to cover enough film in theaters this time around for Animated Anarchy. Especially since Hotel Transylvania 2 broke box office records as the #1 movie in September. If you enjoy reviews of recent movies, leave a comment below! I love getting suggestions for new articles!