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Monster And Writers On Vacation: A Review Of 'Hotel Transylvania 3'

Let’s first establish that I enjoyed the first two installments of this film franchise. It’s hard to believe that it was way back 2012 when the first Hotel Transylvania showed up, and with fast-paced gags, nifty and playful animation, what was there not to like about the film? Adam Sandler voicing Dracula, playing single dad to Mavis (Selena Gomez) who’s courted by human Jonathan (Adam Samberg), were pitch perfect in blending regular parenting tropes and dating issues with monster cliches and jokes. And when the second film came out in 2015, introducing Dracula’s father Vlad (Mel Brooks) and making Dracula a very unique, but doting grandfather, were plot worthy twists.


So it’s now 2018; and after six years of running the hotel, Dracula is stressed out and lonely, yearning once again for a Zing! Mavis has a brainstorm and arranges for the whole crew to take a cruise—a monster vacation. And with the prologue to this film, we’re introduced to the legendary Van Helsing family, vampire hunters—and this intro runs like a Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd sequence, with Dracula as the wily Bugs who continuously outsmarts the driven, but sheer out of luck, Van Helsing/Fudd. No spoilers here, so just keep this Van Helsing connection in mind. 


As our familiar monsters go on a collective vacation, it would seem the writers to this third installment went ahead and took one as well—before submitting a full script. Actually, I’ll stand corrected and acknowledge they did submit a full script, but it is one that just doesn’t carry the same pizazz and magic of the first two installments. The gags coming left and right are still there, but not all are worthy inclusions. Some of the highlights of the animation are refugees from another type of animated family film—the harmless blend of gore and guignol elements that are associated with the world of monsters and freaks is missing here, and it would seem we’re now taking a safer, mainstream route that doesn’t play as much with the inherent nature of the subject matter. 


Fortunately for us, the themes of family, of friendship, of inclusion and finding a way to settle differences, are still solid here; and the charm of the franchise is pretty much intact. It’s just that to be honest, I was expecting more, and felt disappointed with this one. I’m sure it’ll still be a runaway success—over $450 million worldwide at last weekend’s count - but I feel they’re merely coasting with this film, and just hope they right the ship for part 4.


Screengrabs from Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation's official trailer