Are you ready to check back in? ‘Hotel Transylvania 2’ is hitting into theaters this weekend — it takes place seven years after the first Golden-Globe nominated movie. But will it be praised this time around?
Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James and Steve Buscemi are all back for Hotel Transylvania 2. This time, Count Dracula’s daughter Mavis and Johnny have a son, Dennis, who seems to be just a normal human — obviously something Dracula (Adam Sandler) isn’t thrilled with. So will the sequel, which was also was co-written by Adam Sandler, be a box-office hit like the first? Here’s what the critics are saying.
As is modern mainstream animation’s custom, adults are meant to be mildly amused by the few jokes tossed their way, from a fleeting image of Cesar Romero’s Joker from TV’s “Batman,” to Johnny donning a Dracula costume modeled after the bulbous-haired vamp Gary Oldman played in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film. Yet the action’s tone is so juvenile, and its pace is so breakneck, that those gestures (as well as a late appearance by Mel Brooks as Dracula’s evil daddy Vlad) seem like paltry concessions to the unfortunate grown-ups tasked with enduring these proceedings alongside their own progeny.
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Suffice to say, Hotel Transylvania 2 is a feast for the eyes — even if the story is sparser and more juvenile this time around. Alas, the writing here just isn’t as strong, which probably has to do with Robert Smigel being the only returning writer from the first film (on which there were five) and Sandler being brought on to co-write. For example, most of the jokes are just rehashes from the first film. (Seriously, we get it: Drac doesn’t say “Blaah, blaah, blaah.” Move on!) Meanwhile, the sly nods and allusions to old horror movies have been replaced by smartphone gags and social media references.
The plot doesn’t matter, save for the last reel when it magically really matters, but the writing is surprisingly sharp and most of the jokes land. I have no desire to do a laundry list of the best gags or the biggest punchlines, but the pay-offs are both physical and verbal in nature. I’m personally partial the appearance of a Phantom of the Opera-type character who briefly acts as a Greek chorus for no particular reason. The fact that this character is rendered to look for more “realistically human” than the other characters itself earns a laugh or two.
As it turns out, gags about texting-challenged seniors are no less tedious when applied to the undead. Similarly, an animated children’s movie might seem an unusual vehicle for airing grievances about helicopter-parenting culture. On the other hand, at this particular juncture in Western civilization no one cares about what’s appropriate or, for that matter, coherent. The movie is also disinclined to consider the cognitive dissonance arising from the replacement of the lullaby lyrics “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” with “Suffer, suffer, scream in pain.” Still, some jokes actually work (a GPS-voice gag induced unforced laughter), and the whole thing is amiable and colorful and surprisingly low on body-function gags. It may not kill you to take your kids.
Will you go see it this weekend?
— Emily Longeretta