One cannot help but flinch when seeing the number 3 lurking cumbersomely at the end of the title of a children’s feature film. The sprawl of an original concept beyond a single sequel too often diluting the core charm beyond recognition. So too comes that flinching recoil at the notion of a ‘fish out of water’ plotline to shake things up. Hotel Transylvania 3 is guilty of both these crimes against animated features. And it is a tentacular spectacular!
No mere fish out of water scenario could unsettle Drac (Adam Sandler) and his monstrous pack. So Genndy Tartakovsky and his writing team upped the ante and went full-blown Kraken out of the deep for their threequel. And boy do those thousands of leagues of sea water refresh the franchise.
Wednesday Adams-alike vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her human hubby Johnny (Andy Samberg) are growing concerned about Drac. Yes, he dotes on his precious grandson and runs his hotel with trademark horrible hospitality but he’s just not the vamp he once was. In fact Drac is hiding a monstrous secret: he’s pining for the zing he once had.
According to family lore, the zing is a once in a lifetime love connection. The tangible sense of two souls entwining forever. Drac was blessed to zing with Mavis’s mother but must now live the rest of his life zingless and alone. His monster chums see no reason why this should be the case and encourage him to embrace the modern age; with myriad mating/dating opportunities a swipe away.
Initially Drac would prefer to swipe away the very thought of betraying his lost love but soon curiosity gets the better of him and he dips a toe in the witch infested dating pool. Oblivious to how close she has come to gaining a hag for a step mum, Mavis has a cunning plan to ring the changes – and it involves striking out for The Bermuda Triangle…
There is something endearing about the imagined world of Hotel Transylvania. It didn’t entirely come through in the first pair of films but a combination of vivacious vocal casting, frenetic pacing and some tremendous visual gags finally realise the full potential in this third outing. It helps that Steve Buscemi (as the voice of Wayne the werewolf) stayed on board. Everything is better with a dash of Buscemi. But in truth all the elements finally just click.
Rather than overburden Drac with (Adam Sandler trademarks) toilet humour and gloom, the often genuinely funny script – and character rendering – allow him to explore grief, longing and an exuberant collection of resort wear. It gives him an interesting love interest in ship’s captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) and grants her both a meaty vengeance subplot AND the depth of characterization to revel in it.
Music and dance play huge parts in Hotel Transylvania’s success, with the DJ battle finale being the spectacular highlight (kudos to Mary Hidalgo for having the genius notion of casting a Jonas Brother as the Kraken). However, it was a slick deck top strut by Drac – with Ericka in deadly pursuit – which stole the show for us. Hotel Transylvania is far from perfect, it is overburdened with sincerity and could do with shedding a few of the vast supporting cast but it has Mel Brooks as Vlad the Impaler. On a cruise ship. It would be churlish to reject such a gift!
Of course Drac cannot be allowed to rest in peace. Even on his vacation. So a blast from his past appears to blow his newly beating heart to smithereens. Yet even that steampunk pest cannot dampen Drac’s ardour. And his newfound joie de (undead) vivre. Wayne Wolf is no less enamoured of the good ship Legacy. For Wayne – like so many disbelieving parents before him – has discovered the existence of Kid’s Club.
And therein lies the secret of Hotel Transylvania’s belated success. It took 3 movies to get us there, but with affectionate writing, relatable family drama and slapstick which doesn’t make you want to slap Adam Sandler silly, we are pleased to report that the monsters of Hotel Transylvania have found their humanity at last.
Hotel Transylvania 3 opens across the UK on Friday 27th July