By Jack Dignan
The Hotel Transylvania movies have never been anything special. Writer-director Genndy Tartakovsky has failed the recapture the magic of his earlier works with such animations as Dexter’s Laboratory or Samurai Jack, both beloved television shows. But these films seem to make money, and so here we are with a third installment in a very hit and miss franchise. Obviously, going into it, expectations were exceptionally low. And perhaps that’s why I came out actually enjoying this?
Where does one go after spending 2 movies and numerous short films exploring the many creepy corners of Count Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) monster hotel? Why, to sea, of course. Yes, that’s right, all your favourite (?) animated monsters are going on vacation, all heralded by Drac’s daughter Mavis (Selina Gomez), who’s also feeling the need to get away from everything and take a break from raising her son, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), with human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg). But it’s on this cruise where Drac falls for the ravishing, charismatic Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), who, unbeknownst to him, is secretly the descendant of Drac’s mortal enemy, Van Helsing.
It’s a cash grab if ever I saw one, but at the same time, Tartakovsky seizes this opportunity to expand his knack for animation in what’s easily the funniest of the series. Best? Definitely not. But visual gags are aplenty, and when the crew leaves the hotel behind, anything goes. The animation explodes with colour and visual delight. Tartakovsky’s famous exaggerated style of movements lends itself perfectly to the way these characters interact, getting laughs in the most unexpected of places.
The film’s endlessly creative humour varies from hilarious to disturbing, even if it all feels very well intended. There’s a sentient volleyball screaming for help every time it gets hit that I’m never going to be able to un-see, but for every deranged and unexpected terror, there’s a joke that lands just as effectively, delivered perfectly by this stellar a-list cast. Unfortunately, with more emphasis put on the Drac and Ericka dynamic, a lot of the fan favourites, particularly Samberg’s Johnny, don’t get much time to shine.
And speaking of the Drac-Ericka dynamic, it literally follows the exact storyline you expect it to. I watched, mentally ticking off each narrative box in my mind as the film inevitably reached them. Some choices felt underdeveloped, but the outcome is exactly as you’d expect. However I must admit that the finale, which I certainly won’t spoil, did come in the most unexpected but welcoming of ways. Between this and Deadpool 2, it’s been a great year for anti-dubstep movies.
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