The misunderstood monsters of Hotel Transylvania are back — though it’s not like anyone was really asking for a return. But after the international box office pushed the $85 million original well over $358 million, it’s time to give the globe what it wants. Adam Sandler should be happy. When he makes live action films — Pixels, The Cobbler — all he ends up with are flops. Here, he can put on a funny voice, bring a bunch of his buddies along for the paycheck, and remain a viable figure in an industry that more or less considers him poison.
For those who’ve already forgotten the first film, the premise played on the notion that humans hate monsters. As a result, Dracula (Sandler) has opened a hotel for the horrific, and loves entertaining his buddies Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (formerly music icon Cee-Lo Green, now comedian Keegan-Michael Key) and the rest of the macabre rejects. Now, thanks to the end of the last movie, humans can also stay at the resort.
The other issue Drac is dealing with is daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), her now husband Jonathan (Andy Samberg), and their five-year-old Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). She wants to stay in the real world. Her hubby would rather be back with the fiends. And as for their child, well, there are questions as well. Is he a vampire? A regular kid? A bit of both? Drac and his pals are determined to find out, so they arrange a how-to-be-a-monster roadtrip for Dennis to provide a bit of terror training.
Like Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2 has only one aesthetic ace of its sleeve — director Genndy Tartakovsky. The talent animation artist, perhaps best known for his work on Cartoon Network classics like The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, and the Star Wars spin-off Clone Wars, is beyond talented. He has an eye for design and an ear for comedy. He keeps Sandler and company reeled in while letting the rest of the cast pick up some of the laugh slack.
Unfortunately, the flailing funnyman was also involved in the scripting, meaning that Hotel Transylvania 2 suffers from the same lax approach to wit as other Sandler fare. His soiled slacker strategies just don’t sit right with 2015 ideas. It is clear that we are supposed to find the clash of cultures (or now, the lack thereof) amusing. The problem is that Sandler and his co-writer Robert Smigel can’t write for kids. They think they know what modern kids like, but then it gets filtered through a weird kind of meaningless matinee memory.
On the other hand, Tartakovksy keeps the movie from flying out and over the heads of his intended demo. Hotel Transylvania 2 isn’t some poignant Pixar experiment or bit of Ice Age/Madagascar stunt casting. Instead, it’s a cartoon — a goofy, silly, fun, flawed throwback to the days when animation just had to be perky, not profound. There’s no bigger message (though a subtext of inclusiveness and tolerance is attempted, and then dropped) and most of the gags are aimed at the easily amused.
This means that Hotel Transylvania 2 goes down easy, if not well. It’s a solid amusement for someone under eight, but a chore for anyone who remembers the good old days when creatures of the night were frightening, not funny. Sandler’s star may not shine elsewhere, but given a pen and ink makeover, he clearly connects with his pre-adolescent audience. You won’t hate yourself for liking this movie, but it’s really nothing more than filler. It suits the purpose, and that’s all the rest of the planet requires.