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Movie Review: 'Hotel Transylvania 2'

Hotel Transylvania 2 is more of the same, but is that good enough?

Review by Matt Cummings

In a year of gross-out humor, dark and dreary landscapes, and even some animated films that were frankly way too young for children, Hotel Transylvania 2 might have found itself the odd monster banished to the Forest of Forgotten Genres. Luckily, it returns to re-stake its claim to the beliefs that funny doesn't have to always be gross, and that little kids still have a place in Hollywood's big budget machine.

Fresh off a marriage to the lovable loser Jonathon (voiced by Andy Samberg), Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) soon delivers the baby Dennis whom her father Dracula (Adam Sandler) is convinced is a vampire just waiting to arrive. But Mavis isn't onboard and thinks her new family should move to California where Jonathon's parents (Nick Offerman and Molly Shannon) represent the kind of life that Dennis truly deserves. But Dracula is a tough customer, and so he decides to enlist his monster buddies Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne The Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) and Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) in an effort to bring the bloodsucker out of the boy. But when Mavis learns of the deception, Dracula must explain himself while trying to keep his daughter from leaving.

Hotel Transylvania 2 contains the same mix of high-brow genre callouts and low-brow kiddie humor that should make everyone laugh, although not as out loud or as hysterically as before. It's still got that great heart which suckered me in like Dracula's trance, along with some great tips-of-the-hat. Things really get going when Dracula's father (whom I won't mention to keep the secret) journeys to the hotel to meet his grandson and brings along with him an ugly gargoyle named Bella (yes, that Bella from Twilight). But up until that time, Hotel Transylvania 2 struggles somewhat to find where it will end up. We're not quite sure how that happens, but at least the comedy keeps things together until it does.

I really appreciate the Muppets-like zaniness which has become a hallmark of the series, thanks in part to Director Genndy Tartakovsky's slick vision and willingness to take all of these classic monsters into new territories. It's fun seeing them as shadows of their former selfs, out of breath with advanced age and forgetful of what made them scary in the first place. Tartakovsky gave us the gorgeous Samurai Jack, and in Transylvania 2 he further develops this universe as a place where these beasts are not only well-known but take selfies with those they're supposed to scare. That benefits the audience throughout the film, especially when Dennis is delivered by the boys to a vampire summer camp.

My disdain for Adam Sandler is well documented, but feel free to enjoy my slayings of That's My Boy, Grown Ups 2, and Pixels. But in Transylvania, he is the king of the monsters, a dapper-dressed, smooth-operating, devilish soul who perfectly captures Dracula as a comedic figure out of touch with the way the world now works. Sandler adds some macabre from The Addams Family into his performance, elevating him beyond the simple immortal bloodsucker. He works quite well with his team of comedians, including Samberg, James, Buschemi, and James (who I also cannot stand in anything but this), further fleshing out these characters without needing to throw in a sex-with-grandma line or Sandler's usual loser persona. In many ways, it's clear that Hotel Transylvania 2 is the one thing Sandler can't screw up.

There are some new characters as well, which Tartakovsky and his team have smartly filled with other stellar comedians including Shannon, Offerman, Rob Diggle, and Dana Carvey. But it's the parental tale between Sandler and Gomez that continues to impress. Mavis' desire to see Dennis grow into whatever being his body chooses (vampire or human) clashes directly with her father's vision for the boy, which gives Co-Writers Sandler and Robert Smigel plenty of chances to let these characters shine. Still, you'll notice a slight drop off from the first film, perhaps inevitable but nothing that keeps it from delivering a quality 90-minute experience. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh returns to give us more organ-inspired dark tones, but also throws on the schmaltz when The Phantom of the Opera shows up.

If you enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania, then you'll most likely feel the same about this one, although it won't be hard to identify which is better. Regardless of any issues you'll discover, it should provide the perfect relief for families desperate for a good, wholesome laugh.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is rated PG for some scary images, action and rude humor and has a runtime of 89 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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