My daughter was an eight-year-old when Hotel Transylvania (2012) came out, and we ventured to our local theater to watch a film which I held little expectation of. I walked out that day with a new inside joke to share with my daughter that I knew would crack her up, which was simply saying “Blah bla-blah.” My daughter is now 14, but I was able to convince her to come with me to the Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) at an 11:00 p.m. showing expecting it to be fairly empty, or at least void of young children. Apparently, summer vacation knows no bedtimes, and there were several young kids at our showing…but I realized it could help me better gauge the success of the film, as we aren’t the target demographic. That said, this third entry is predictable, overstuffed, and a shadow of the first – but perfectly acceptable for a kids movie.
Hotel Transylvania 3 isn’t as good as the first one, but possibly better than the forgettable second film
Dracula (Adam Sandler) is feeling very lonely, even though his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), her husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg), and their son, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), live at the hotel and help him run things. However, the need for love is matched only by his despair, because monster’s “only zing once.” Mavis misreads her dad’s loneliness as exhaustion and decides the family (EVERY CHARACTER EVER SEEN IN THE MOVIES) needs to take a vacation. Cue the Monster Cruise commercial to turn her spark of an idea into a raging fire, and the plot of the movie shifts from a giant hotel to a giant hotel on the water (a joke the movie makes at least twice).
The voice cast in these films has always been a who’s who of Adam Sandler buddies include Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Keegan-Michael Key, and Molly Shannon, while starting with the first film notoriously leaving out Rob Schneider. Jim Gaffigan as Van Helsing and Kathryn Hahn as Captain Ericka join the large cast, and their characters get a lot to do. The focus falls primarily on Dracula and Mavis, but every monster gets some screen time, making for a fairly erratic story designed to keep the attention of the audience. Frank yells fire, people bump into Griffin (the invisible man), Wayne and Wanda are exhausted because of all of their wolf pups, and Dennis has a pet dog that is massive, cute, and able to speak a bit. Those characters become woven together in manic fashion as Dracula attempts to pursue his newfound interest in Captain Ericka while not being honest with Mavis – so she becomes suspicious and worried, creating fabricated family drama. Johnny gets to be the voice of reason again but gets far less to do than Samberg’s character deserves.
The biggest disappointment is that nothing really stands out. There isn’t a key moment that you walk away from the film talking about. It’s all just a jumbled mess of shouting, farting, cuteness, and Adam Sandler bringing back his gibberish speak that jump-started his career in Billy Madison. Director Genndy Tartakovsky manages to keep the audience engaged by never allowing them a chance to breathe. One moment slams into the next, and even the video game-like plot structure – which has the ship make three distinct stops along the way – doesn’t allow one to have a moment to think about the things going on. Yet, if you are just looking to keep your kids mildly entertained and fairly quiet, then this may work for you.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation isn’t bad, nor is it distinct, essential viewing. The laughs were sparse in the crowd that saw the film with me, but it was also quiet, despite having several young kids in the film who were very loud during the trailers. The characters of the trilogy do continue to grow, if only slightly – so fans of the franchise may take solace in that. For me, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.