The problem with the Hotel Transylvania franchise is that all the conflict was settled after the first one. After that, it’s basically an animated sitcom no more and no less sophisticated than The Munsters. At this point there is virtually nothing left other than a road trip, so director Genndy Tartakovsky sends Drac and his posse of cuddly monsters off to sea for the threequel, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. This is exactly the sort of bright, colorful, noisy, if not actually mind-numbing, kid-friendly entertainment you’d expect, and as you’d also expect, there isn’t a surprise in the whole thing.
That’s pretty much the bottom line here. This is an unambitious threequel aimed at undemanding audiences, who will probably enjoy it, then forget it. On DVD, this will be a babysitting movie.
Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler, has been widowed for roughly a century at this point, and even the youngest children in the audience will probably expect him to meet someone on the cruise, especially as he chides “This isn’t the Love Boat.” Enter the ship’s captain, a platinum blond in a pixie cut. Captain Erika, voiced by Kathryn Hahn, is attracted to Dracula as well, but she has a secret which threatens to keep the love birds apart. Erika is a Van Helsing, one of the legendary family of vampire-slayers, and she’s on a mission to eradicate Dracula once and for all.
That’s still “Boy, or rather vampire, meets girl 101,” in case you weren’t paying attention, and an amusing flashback to 1897 shows Dracula and Ericka’s great-grandfather in a series of encounters, with Van Helsing getting foiled more often than Wile E. Coyote. Great-Granda Van Helsing has kept himself around all this time with a collection of steampunk bionic parts scarier than anything the monsters have going for them. He’s also brainwashed Ericka to hate vampires with a focus better adjusted people reserve for clowns and spiders. The ship is enroute to the lost city of Atlantis to unearth a secret weapon, but Ericka can’t wait and tries to kill Dracula several times along the way.
The movie flirts with rom-com conventions, but is on more solid ground with sight gags aimed at the kids, who will love it. Perhaps needlessly, the movie also perpetuates one of the most damaging movie clichés ever sold to young people – that love at first sight is the way it generally happens, and that there’s one true love out there for everyone, and you should never give up on it, even if she’s trying to kill you and your whole family. Family Court lawyers and fans of Lifetime movies know better.
The movie is fun to look at, although the Transylvanian locales are missed. The pacing is brisk and the story is designed not to overtax or overstress audience members of any age. The all-star voice cast will of course be lost on the target audience, though they uniformly do their jobs well and older audience members will have fun sorting them out (Fran Drescher isn’t hard to identify). Selena Gomez, Jim Gaffigan, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Mel Brooks, Joe Jonas and Chrissy Tiegen are all in the voice cast.
Part of the fun for adults is definitely watching the reactions of young children who will find the proceedings far more amusing than their parents. That alone mitigates in favor of seeing Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation in theaters.