Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) / Animation-Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG for some scary images, action and rude humor
Running Time: 89 min.

Cast (voices): Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Asher Blinkoff, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullaly, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, Rob Riggle, Mel Brooks, Jonny Solomon, Chris Kattan
Small role: Jon Lovitz, Robert Smigel, Nick Swardson, Chis Parnell, Allen Covert
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenplay: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel

Review published September 26, 2015

Taking a cue from another 2015 Adam Sandler-produced film, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which wasn't set in a mall, Hotel Transylvania 2 has only brief references to the hotel from which it derives its title.  And also like Blart 2, this sequel is significantly inferior to the original in the laughs department.

I did enjoy the 2012 first entry, Hotel Transylvania, so I did come into the sequel with some expectations that it would be a good time, even if Adam Sandler's live-action movies (Pixels, Blended)  have continued to be the pits.  Then I saw that Adam Sandler was listed as co-screenwriter, replacing Peter Baynham as collaborator with Robert Smigel (You Don't Mess with the Zohan), and I became a bit nervous.  Sadly, that pang of doubt proved to be founded, as Hotel Transylvania 2 is just not funny enough to recommend, despite terrific animation and voice work (Mel Brooks (Mr. Peabody & Sherman) needs to do more in this regard -- he's a natural), and continued good direction from Genndy Tartakovsky ("Dexter's Laboratory", "The Powerpuff Girls").

Continuing from the events of the first film, we start off with the wedding of Mavis (Gomez, Getaway), daughter of the powerful vampire Dracula (Sandler), marrying human, Jonathan (Samberg, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2).  A year later, and Mavis gives birth to a baby boy they call Dennis, and the big question on Drac's mind is whether Dennis will grow up to be a vampire or if he'll stay as human as he seems, as it often takes until their fifth birthday for vampire boys to grow their fangs and get their powers, after which they are a lost cause.  In addition to Drac's anguish about his grandson potentially not being a monster, he is also dismayed that being human will also mean that Mavis and Dennis will move to Jonathan's home town in California where the tyke will grow up as a normal human.  Thinking that environs will 'bring out the inner beast' in Dennis, Dracula decides to take advantage of the parents trip to America by sneaking the boy to familiar places where vampires go in order to jump-start the process, if the kid even has the vampire gene in him, before they move away for good.

With the exception of the look of the film, which is terrific, and some of the visual zip provided by the deft hand of animation veteran Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylvania 2 is a total bore.  It suffers from a dull, predictable story and tired gags involving the same characters we grew to like from the first movie getting trotted out again, and what's new isn't very clever.  What's worse, Drac is far more obnoxious here as the doting grandfather, to the point where we either have no vested interest in whether he becomes a 'Vampa' (vampire grandpa), or we actually want Dennis to be human, just so he can get away from such an overbearing cad like Drac.

If the (un)dead-on-arrival storyline weren't annoying enough, the product placement for SONY products in this film is about as prevalent as I've seen in any of their films, and that is generally plenty.  Have a drinking game and take a shot whenever a SONY product appears in this film and you'll be passed out by the halfway point. You wouldn't think a purely animated film set in Transylvania full of many characters that would have no need for modern technology could shove electronics in their faces every several minutes, but in this film, we get at least twenty instances of someone looking at their cellphones to take a call, watch a video, or shoot a selfie, each one with the SONY moniker blazoned across the top, and maybe even a few instances of someone using a VAIO laptop. Given that the events of the film actually cover the length of six total years, it's interesting to see how little technology progresses over that time, since all of the items look exactly the same as they do today.

In addition, the movie also contrives ways to get as much music and dancing as it can, whether appropriate or not, including a scene in which Drac decides that Dennis wants to see him bust some dance floor moves in order to give him an answer he is seeking.  It's all just a formula built on tapping buttons to delight audiences rather than tell a heartfelt storyline, but given that Tartakovsky must have surely known he had a dog of a screenplay to work with, and one done by the film's producers no less, who can blame him for trying to entertain us with as many visual gags as he can shoehorn in.  The end of the film gets noisy and is full of slapstick antics, ultimately drawing out the life lesson that just about any conflict could be solved with lots of violence, which is a bit of a dubious moral for an innocuous kids film that is supposed to be about accepting who we are in life, come what may.

It's not the worst animated feature to come along, but it's all a bells-and-whistles experience for those who are merely pacified by silly slapstick and eye candy (i.e., your kids).  Hotel Transylvania 2's story isn't worth the trip back to Transylvania to experience.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo