Considering the chaotic, thoughtless nightmare that was 2012’s Hotel Transylvania, expectations were suitably low for its 2015 sequel. Happily, director Genndy Tartakovsky and writer Robert Smigel polish things up a great deal for Hotel Transylvania 2 and manage to tell an amusing, relatively straightforward yarn.
While most of the same fixtures at in place for the sequel, Hotel Transylvania 2 puts the pieces together with more zeal and colour. It still has issues with an invasive musical score and some hokey moments rattle the clichéd cages, but the story is simple if stale and Smigel wisely avoids leaving too much space for extra nonsense.
The action begins with the wedding of Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg). Mavis is the daughter of Dracula (Adam Sandler), while Johnny is a human. They live at the titular hotel. A year later, Mavis reveals she’s expecting and Dracula starts hoping the kid will be a vampire in the family tradition. When little Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) arrives, it doesn’t look like he has fangs after all.
The Count will not be deterred and he arranges to have his pals help him train Dennis to become a monster. He has Johnny divert Mavis in the process, which only solidifies her desires to move out of Hotel Transylvania and to a more conventional neighbourhood. Eventually, Mavis discovers what her father has been up to.
Sandler’s friends drop by to flesh out the ghouls. Kevin James is Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi is Wayne the werewolf and David Spade is the Invisible Man. Keegan-Michael Key has a turn as Murray the mummy, while Mel Brooks has a blast as Dracula’s father Vlad. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally are perfectly cast as Johnny’s human parents, while Jon Lovitz has a brief bit as the Phantom of the Opera.
While Hotel Transylvania concerned itself with such frustrating concepts as the “zing,” this movie does a better job representing Dracula’s difficulties with changing times. He feels generally better about humankind, but he still has his preferences and is attached to the old ways. He even struggles with his smartphone, which somehow works as a dated but cute gag.
Without question, Hotel Transylvania 2 boasts the best pure script Sandler has had in years and he makes the most of it. His Dracula is sprightly and one can feel his pain when he drops by his old vampire camp and discovers it full of mollycoddling and bereft of his beloved dread.
Tartakovsky, who delivered the madcap goods with Dexter’s Laboratory, juggles the elements well. But there are still issues, like a trite storyline and a typically aggressive Mark Mothersbaugh score, and the monsters don’t offer any sort of classic context. Because of this, there are missed opportunities and Hotel Frankenstein 2 isn’t as funny as it could’ve been.
Conceptually, Tartakovsky relies on focus group stuff to pack in a dance sequence here or a mopey moment there. The rhythm is telegraphed and the scatter-brained culmination is a disastrous cop-out that allows the characters to have it all.
That said, Hotel Transylvania 2 is meaningless fun and it works on some weird level. There’s some neat black comedy with the twisted routines of the monsters, plus the voice acting isn’t bad. It doesn’t feel as cheap as the dreadful Minions and has much in common with unexceptional diversions like The Good Dinosaur and Home. For a Sandler-led film, things could be a whole lot worse.