They’re Back To Raise A Little Terror
Set.. well.. it’s a little hard to tell how much time passes between the end of Hotel Transylvania and the start of Hotel Transylvania 2, especially considering we are treated to a rushed montage from wedding to the presence of a five year old child. So let’s skip straight to that. Mavis [Gomez] and Jonathan [Samberg] are happily married with their son Dennis, a half-human half-vampire child, although any sign of his mother’s genes seems either very latent or non-existent, much to his grandfather, Dracula’s [Sandler] chagrin. As Dennis develops, Mavis considers whether growing up around monsters is the right environment for her son, leading her and Johnny to take a trip to California to stay with Jonathan’s parents. During this time, Dracula and his friends embark on a road trip to bring out the child’s inner monster.
So here’s the thing, Hotel Transylvania was surprisingly entertaining; not brilliant but not as terrible as I was expecting. Which was an unusual preconception to adopt as Tartakovsky has been producing amazing family projects for decades (Dexter’s Lab, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, etc) and Sandler.. well he has his moments, albeit few and far between. Either way, it had a serviceable story, pleasing animation, decent enough jokes and was well performed. Then they announced a sequel that followed the Father Of The Bride story about a dad who can’t process his daughter growing up and worries how little of himself will be present in any future offspring. In this case, in a very literal sense: should his grandchildren be carrying on the vampiric line?
Much like its predecessor, Hotel Transylvania 2 gets a lot of things right. Most importantly is the positive progressive message about mixed marriages and coming to terms with the nature of what family is; that is, until the end of the film but I’ll expand on that in my highlighted scene section. The humour once again excels best when it plays on the mythology and iconography of the respective legendary characters – I rather liked the fact that Mavis wants to move to Santa Cruz (where The Lost Boys is set) though I have no idea if that was intentional or not. But everything outside of that is incredibly difficult to praise without adding caveats prefaced with “as long as you ignore”.
One of the biggest irksome points is Sandler’s entourage. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, really I’m just talking about the deplorably unfunny David Spade. But Sandler authoring the script presents a great deal of weak comedy elements that could have been altogether avoided. Having said that, this was released in the same year that Sandler also penned Pixels, so it’s worth noting that it could have been so much worse. The trouble is there are too many sight gags, dance sequences and random ukulele songs that have no business being there, other than to babysit the youngest members of the audience. You may assume that means I’m not a fan of the slapstick, far from it, I find that decent slapstick is the backbone of cross-generational family humour but what this movie forgets is that it needs to be original and avoid the ubiquitous. And while we’re on the subject of tropes, there was an excessive amount of odd cartoony inclusions that felt a little trite. I understand Dracula is an overprotective father who doesn’t want to lose his daughter (pretty much the plot of the first film) but to prevent her kissing her new husband at the wedding is a touch disproportionate, especially when you consider the manner in which he celebrates when he realises he’s going to be a grandfather (and what was up with that reveal? She has her usual physical appearance, even in bat form, then she hides in a cloud for a minute only to reveal a hugely pregnant stomach?). It may sound petty but it’s this overall reliance upon simple and tired developments that hinders the film from saying anything of note.
Hotel Transylvania 2 is just as inoffensive as the first one but this time round feels like the two dimensional nature of the characters will all-too-quickly outstay their welcome, especially without solid, original storytelling. And in truth, they will always falter when held up against things like ParaNorman or Coraline and completely fails when compared to anything produced by Pixar. Strangely, the best comparison I could draw would be the Kung Fu Panda films. Kung Fu Panda has a great, effective story, a brilliant setting, vibrant visuals, a thundering score, energetic voice acting and possibly most importantly an overwhelming love for the genre it’s both homaging and lampooning. I know we all claim to know and love classic monster movies but so few people have actually seen the originals and therefore a lot their conceptions about them are based on inaccuracies. As they stand, two Hotel Transylvania movies are fine, perfectly acceptable in their own right. But if a third is released, I would definitely expect a significant drop off in the rate of appeal. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
16th October 2015
The Scene To Look Out For:
**End of the film ruined in this paragraph. Look away if necessary**
After all the build-up about the kid’s heritage and Dracula having to come to terms with loving his grandson unconditionally that’s all pissed away when it turns out Dennis is a vampire. I know they call him half-this half-that but no, he’s a vampire, he has fangs and can fly and fight and see great distances and hypnotise things and instantly masters all of his genetic abilities with exceptional ease. This really annoyed me. Ten years ago Spielberg directed War Of The Worlds and while it wasn’t perfect, it had the ability to be amazing, most notably because the narrative openly called out Tom Cruise’s character, by highlighting that he had no plan, he was just going to dump the kids off with their mother. But as the film progresses, you realise that everyone’s probably dead and even if they are alive, he’s going to have to explain how he got one of them killed. Grounds enough for a great writer to produce something brilliant, I’m sure you’ll agree. Instead, everything worked out fine and no one learned anything and the same thing happened here. So much fuss is made of Dracula’s pressuring and his father’s flat-out racism that a moment of real strength of character would break forth any minute. But then they abandon it for a poxy fight scene and suddenly no one has to adjust and everything just carries on as per usual.
As with the first film, I found Dracula and Frankenstein to be the most pleasing characters portrayed by both Adam Sandler and Kevin James in years. Channelling decent comic talent without resorting to the usual standard gimmicks that both of them fall back on all too often. I would want to talk about Mel Brooks and Rob Riggle but they appear so late in the film that they feel like an afterthought.
“Can we stop using the word normal?”
In A Few Words:
“Standard sequel fare that doesn’t recreate the original too much but proves that the bag of tricks for this series is pretty much scraping the barrel”