By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Adam Sandler does a better job at being a second banana than a helmer in Hotel Transylvania 2. He does share some co-writing credit with Robert Smigel and is an executive producer, and thankfully it ends there. Fans of this franchise can be thankful he’s not exercising huge control over this movie like the vampire he’s playing. In a story that is basically about learning how to compromise, the other talents are the ones who get to shine on like a pretty diamond.
When Genndy Tartakovsky is directing this film, maybe he exerted more control towards maintaining a consistent vision where Dracula is not in every frame. This movie is far more enjoyable than the first. When Sandler is providing a voice, he has a lot to concentrate on to maintain consistency in his performance instead of influencing what’s being rendered on-screen. In this CGI film, it’s easy to snap out of a master vampire’s mesmerizing gaze.
This movie shows how parents should not force expectations on their children at a very young age. The first half of the movie is filled with moments where Count Dracula (Sandler) and his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) are trying to decide what’s the best environment to raise the newest member of their brood, a very young and energetic Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). In the antics that ensues when both vampyric parental units explore either Johnny’s home in Santa Cruz, California or the deepest forests of Romania, neither seems to have the right idea. Strangely, Johnny (Andy Samberg) is very under-utilized. He’s basically a surfer dude who got lucky and he hardly has much to say in the upbringing of his child. After all, Johnny and Mavis got married, and Dennis is their kid.
The sit-com moments is fairly generic. There’s bits of humour for children to enjoy and in-jokes that only adults will get. The chuckles are well-earned, but as for how Batman figures into this story nearly requires knowing a bit of the mythos to understand how the writing really shines. Bela is a Man-Bat (Rob Riggle), a servant to Vlad (Mel Brooks), and he is the true villain in this story. He looks and sounds terrifying! Riggle does a great job at playing up a very beastly character, and he is the threat in a story that takes a long time to get to.
That also includes Mel Brooks appearance as Vlad, the father to Dracula. Brooks’ work as a gruffy and temperamental old man is very Munsters-like in his approach, and he embodies everything that’s always laughable in his comedies. He certainly had fun behind the microphone when recording his lines, and it’s good to hear him in more animated projects these days when new films produced by him are in short supply.
As for the cubs in this film, there’s plenty to count when werewolves breed faster than bunnies and Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi) has trouble raising them. When one member of his pack, Winnie (Sadie Sandler), takes a shining to Dennis, there’s certainly an aw factor to enjoy in this subplot that looks like it can blossom. A third film will no doubt be coming to address how this puppy love will grow.
Sadly, the 3D presentation has not improved. Maybe 30 seconds of it has depth and if there’s ever an animated CGI movie to put a nail to the coffin of why this format must die, this movie has to be it.
3½ Stars out of 5