Right off the bat let me go on and say that Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) is better than its predecessor, Hotel Transylvania (2012) . But before you rejoice for Adam Sandler, let me stop you right there. There is improvement yes, but not really by a whole lot.
In Hotel Transylvania 2, Mavis (Selena Gomez) finally ties the knot with her human boyfriend Johnny (Andy Samberg) and they soon have a bouncing half-human, half-vampire baby boy named Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). But the boy’s true nature will only be determined on his fifth birthday, that is whether or not he sprouts fangs. While Mavis is away to California visiting her in-laws with Johnny, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler), determined to bring out the vampire heritage in his grandson, enlists the help of ghoulish buddies Frank the Monster (Kevin James), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), and Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) to put Dennis through a monster-in-training bootcamp. Things get even more complicated when Dracula’s human-hating, vampire father Vlad (Mel Brooks), enters the picture.
So here’s the bad news. The script leaves much to be desired. You know what they say about sequels, that it’s pretty much the same as the first one, only putting in minor additions just so there is an ever slight variation from the original? This movie falls into that trap. In Hotel Transylvania (2012) we have Count Dracula whose helicopter daddy ways prevent daughter Mavis from going out into the real world, and that includes having a relationship with Johnny, the human. In Hotel Transylvania 2, it’s pretty much the same thing. Only this time Count Dracula’s helicopter parenting is aimed at Mavis’ helicopter parenting of her own sweet and unassuming half-human, half-vampire son Dennis. The plot is very much still thin soup. It goes off in tangents, making the movie feel haphazard. For example there’s a random dance sequence and an overblown fight scene that does nothing for the story, they seem to be merely fluff. Which leads me to think that this film might better serve as a short. Or a series of shorts. The animation director for this movie is Genndy Tartakovky. You might remember him from Cartoon Network as the creator of Dexter’s Laboratory and a producer/director of The Powerpuff Girls. Both cartoons initially started as a short in the What A Cartoon! Show airing on the same aforementioned network. I just think Hotel Transylvania might work even better in small doses. 89 minutes is just too long, hence the need for random scenes to act as fillers.
But the movie excels in animation. They upped the ante a bit by creating even funnier expressions and body movements on the characters. The monsters are vibrant and hilariously goofy in delivering the physical gags. And speaking of gags, they’re still hit and miss. The running joke on Count Dracula’s texting ineptitude got old fast. And I groaned when an actual bluetooth entered the picture. But I think there are plenty of solid comedy to be found. Having the monsters go on a road trip to revisit their old haunts only to find The Dark Forest and The Vampire Camp suburbanized and disneyfied, were goldmines for some great scenes and jokes. That and because Dracula and his gang have become so out of touch with monstering, it’s great fun watching them fake it until they make it. And I have to mention Dennis in particular who is so very adorable, it is genius (or a cheap shot?) to have him be such. I cannot count the number of times little Dennis got an “awww” from the audience, me included. And when he breakdances, you wouldn’t mind the fact that his breakdancing has nothing to do whatsoever with the plot. Yeah I bought it hook line and sinker. Dennis is undoubtedly the true star of this show.
“Humans, vampires, unicorns. As long as you’re happy.” goes Count Dracula’s truism. And the movie could have driven home this message with much more impact had they went with a different ending. Instead they went for the safe, paint-by-numbers conclusion which seems to be backtracking a bit on the idea that it’s okay for kids to be different. “Humans, vampires, unicorns. As long as you’re happy.” But I’d be happier if you were a (insert gender, race, etc. here). I mean I’m fine if you’re a (insert gender, race etc. here). But it’d be really great if you could just be a (insert gender, race etc. here).
Hotel Transylvania 2 is definitely nowhere near Inside Out or Up or most of Pixar’s offerings. But I still think it is worth the price of admission. It is a good-natured and zippy animated film.