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Drac is Back!: “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” Review

Only a chance to see “Hotel Transylvania 3” a week early could get me out of bed and up to my local Alamo Drafthouse, early on Saturday morning.

Actually, it’s my job to get out there and see everything but it’s always a pleasure. A fact that surprises many people is that I actually kinda like the “Hotel Transylvania” movies. I find them inventive and fun. Nothing quite kills “inventive and fun” like churning out a bunch of sequels, but I wasn’t mad at the prospect of catching up with the Drac Pack on summer vacation.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Animation

Genndy Tartakovsky continues to hold the reins as director, in his third credit for the trilogy. The film features the voice talents of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, and Kathryn Hahn, with notable performances by Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, David Spade, Chrissy Teigen, and the always funny Mel Brooks.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” picks up a couple of months after the events of the second film and finds our lovable Count Dracula (Sandler) lonely and looking for love. His daughter, Mavis (Gomez), mistakes Drac’s sudden case of the blues as being overstressed and overworked. The solution? A monster cruise! While onboard, Drac falls for the ship’s captain, Ericka, and struggles with how to both be there for his family and pursue the things that he really wants.

I think it’s safe to say that by the time you get to the third installment of any family film series, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. “Hotel Transylvania 3” really isn’t adding anything new. It’s the same old shenanigans in a slightly more exotic locale. There are some things that the film continues to do well, but overall “Hotel Transylvania 3” is…silly.

Hotel Transylvania 3
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Animation

With every added film to the franchise, the jokes get a little more dumbed down. My eyes would glaze over if not for the fact that I was being curb-stomped by ENERGY. No shape is too improbable, no movement too jerky, and no amount of color and flash too much of an assault. This movie literally bounces all over the place and leans way too hard on funny voices.

I readily praise the “Hotel Transylvania” films for a cast of really fun characters. The design in each character is a ton of fun and the concept of two werewolves as beleaguered parents is still goddamn hilarious to me. But, that doesn’t mean that these great characters aren’t tired.

The only exceptions to this are Samberg’s Johnny and Drac’s dad, Vlad (played by Mel Brooks). Those characters are so wacky that they’re brilliant and I needed a lot more of them.

“Hotel Transylvania 3” continues to deliver on a unique world with great sight gags and a really strong reference game to monster lore. There is a lot of “blink and you’ll miss it” goodies and homage to monsters of classic literature and cinema, as well as pop culture. (I SWEAR that there’s a little “Twilight” quip in here!)

I know I complained about too much ENERGY earlier, but within that complaint comes my highest praise for “Hotel Transylvania 3.” I absolutely adore animation and find myself simultaneously wishing that it was viewed as a more “adult” art form and loving that the use of animation for primarily family entertainment has a way of keeping it pure. As we advance, technologically, it is becoming easier and easier to place animation in a realm of hyperrealism. Think of animated films like “Moana,” where every hair and grain of sand is meticulously crafted.

hotel Transylvania 3
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Animation

Animation has strayed away from its roots. You don’t see many animated movies coming out that really stretch the animation into the absurd. We don’t get many feature films that do what “Popeye” used to or “The Goddess of Spring.”The “Hotel Transylvania” trilogy doesn’t shy away from really silly movements and large expressions.

There is a particular sequence in the film, a sort of wacky tango, that I absolutely adored because it was so quintessentially…animated.

It’s sort of an unspoken agreement in kids’ films that they’re going to put a little something in there for the parents that are being made to sit through it. It’s a shame that those moments were on the backburner because the “mature humor” was some of the best work in the film. I found myself chuckling (not laughing, but I’m a hardass) at the film’s jabs at airline service and the jubilation of werewolves, Wanda and Wayne, as they drop their kids off with a sitter.

All in all, “Hotel Transylvania 3” has writing that leaves something to be desired and a really silly villain, but there are moments that work well and almost begin to make up for it. Lots of dancing, if you’re into that sort of thing. I give it a soft recommendation. Possibly a rental. Maybe a matinee, if you’re a parent.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” sets sail on Friday, July 13th (spooky!).

Featured image credit: Sony Pictures Animation

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