Overview: With the help of his friends, Dracula attempts to nurture the monster side out of his half human grandson. Columbia Pictures; 2015; Rated PG; 89 Minutes.
The Sandler Effect: There is a weird compromise going on in Hotel Transylvania 2. Older viewers will quickly recognize the influence of Adam Sandler, who, along with Robert Smigel, wrote the script for Genndy Tartakovsky’s 3-D animated sequel. But what’s important (and a bit disorienting) to note is that those constantly-lambasted Sandler staples feel a little more palatable in this package. The unearned and unthought character development, the shoehorned MacFarland-esque non sequitur bits, and the general looseness and juvenility all feel more forgivable– if not enjoyable — in animated, child-facing form. While Hotel Transylvania 2 earns its best and longest laughs through animated site gags, the film’s script also earns a shocking amount of appreciative nods, particularly when it aims at the lore of the legendary characters.
The Familiar Voices: And yet, predictably, Sandler’s writing still manages to be the biggest obstacle of the movie, only in a wholly new way. As is the case with most of Sandler’s live action films, the cast of Hotel Transylvania 2 showcases a long list of celebrated comedic talents (or once-talents, as it were), and the film’s characters have been written to lazily incorporate the tired trademarks of their performers. Wayne the werewolf has Steve Buscemi’s poor posture and self deprecation. Frankenstein’s Monster has Kevin James’ exaggerated gluttony. Jonathan exhibits Andy Sandberg’s common clueless slacker persona. Invisible Man Griffin gets hung up on a dating gag, just as every David Spade character does. And all the way down the line, until it becomes impossible not to think about just how long these performers have been overspending their stale, static brands in sub-par films. While this isn’t an observation that the film’s target audience is likely to make, it is absolutely grating for adult viewers.
Progress?: The central plot of Hotel Transylvania 2 centers on half-monster/half-human Dennis and the uncertainty of which half of his lineage will prove dominant in his identity. There is a loosely articulated rule that a vampire’s fangs have to develop before the fifty birthday. This ticking clock uncertainty creates a vaguely symbolic exploration of social marginalization and attitude-embedded segregation. Dracula’s father Vlad (Mel Brooks) injects a conservative voice decrying the phenomenon of humans pairing with monsters, a sort of vampiric Archie Bunker.
Overall: If the movie feels a bit too proud for addressing the sort of nakedly bigoted conservativism that hasn’t been prevalent since the 80s, I suppose we can forgive it since it is admittedly nice seeing an Adam Sandler vehicle attempting to be about something.