Just through its playful riffing on famous monsters and legends, the first two entries in the Hotel Transylvania franchise provided some seriously goofy summer fun. The trick was finding a core of great characters and some complementary secondary characters that could hold the screen in support.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation spends so much time on its core characters – and one newcomer – that those delightfully weird secondary characters are left with little to do. The result is a mediocre film that wears out its welcome well before the (admittedly delightful) closing credits.
As HT3 opens, Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) is suffering a bad case of loneliness. He misses his long since departed wife more than ever because – as the first two films repeatedly told us – a vampire ‘zings’ (the undead equivalent of love at first sight) only once.
His daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), mistakes his loneliness for work burnout from running the hotel for over a century – and decides to fix things by giving him a stress-free summer vacation: the first ever Monster Cruise.
So, Dracula, Mavis, Johnny (voiced by Andy Samberg), Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff) and Vlad (voiced by Mel Brooks) – accompanied by their coterie of close friends – head off to sea.
Once at sea, the monsters meet their captain, Captain Erika (voiced by Kathryn Hahn) and, much to Drac’s surprise, he zings again!
But Captain Erika has a dark secret – she’s the great granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing – and she means to destroy Drac and his family and friends.
Written by Michael McCullers and director Genndy Tartakovsky, HT3 focuses so much on Drac, Captain Erika and Mavis that the rest of the colorful cast of characters gets little more than the barest possible opportunities to shine.
While the animation is as solid as the first two films, and the relationship between Drac and Captain Erika – and Mavis’ reactions to it – are good fun (if somewhat predictable), the lack of any solid character material from the rest makes the film unbalanced and barely more than mediocre.
Even the audience I saw it with – at least three-quarters kids – barely laughed at all, and there was the sound of squirming children ready to go home throughout the theater.
Unusually for a Genndy Tartakovsky film, HT3 puts all its heart in the three main characters – even toddler vampire Dennis has little to do, and Mel Brooks is woefully underused (though he does get one of the few good laughs to originate from outside the main trio – the other is the one gag the werewolf couple gets at the end).
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is, unfortunately, pretty average.
Final Grade: C+