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"HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2"
(2015) (voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Comedy: Worried that his married vampire daughter might move out of the castle to raise her half-human/half vampire son with humans if that's what he turns out to be, Dracula does what he can to make sure his grandson is a bloodsucker like him.
PLOT:
For much of his life, Dracula (voice of ADAM SANDLER) hated humans and did everything to keep his 118-year-old daughter, Mavis (voice of SELENA GOMEZ), sheltered from them in his Transylvania hotel for monsters. But she ended up falling for Jonathan (voice of ANDY SAMBERG), an American backpacker with a surfer dude attitude. Now, years later, those two are married with a nearly five-year-old son, Dennis (voice of ASHER BLINKOFF). Dracula loves the kid, but is worried he might lean more toward being human than vampire. Accordingly, Dracula arranges for Jonathan to take Mavis to his hometown of Santa Cruz while he babysits and makes sure Dennis' fangs drop before he turns five.

And he tries to do that by having his friends -- Frankenstein (voice of KEVIN JAMES), werewolf Wayne (voice of STEVE BUSCEMI), Murray the mummy (voice of KEEGAN MICHAEL KEY) and Griffin (voice of DAVID SPADE), the invisible man -- show the boy what being a monster is all about. Unfortunately, they're all rusty at doing that, and even the vampire camp Dracula attended as a kid has gone soft. When Mavis gets wind of what her dad is trying to do, she returns home in a huff. Complicating matters is that she's invited Dracula's human-hating vampire father, Vlad (voice of MEL BROOKS), to Dennis' birthday party that will be attended by Jonathan, his parents, and other humans.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
There's the old tale of blues musician Robert Johnson going down to the crossroads and selling his soul to you know who in exchange for some slick guitar licks and other such skills. The fact that he died at the age of 27 only added to the legend, and thus when you hear of people or companies who/that repeatedly achieve success, you often hear people pondering if they made a transaction with ol' Beelzebub.

I'm not suggesting that anyone at Pixar did just that, but it's remarkable that aside from a few missteps -- mainly the "Cars" franchise -- they've had hit after hit that not only appeased their viewers, but critics as well. And it makes you wonder that if they can do it so often, why others seemingly cannot.

Take, for example, "Hotel Transylvania" from back in 2012. While it might not have featured the devil, the computer animated film did contain a bevy of horror monsters -- Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy and the Invisible Man -- and what seemed like a surefire concept. Somewhat like Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." it showed such monsters as working folk who were just as concerned about humans as the more common, other way around. And that mainly revolved around Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler doing his normal shtick) trying to shield his 118-year-old daughter (Selena Gomez) from any sort of human contact.

While it had a huge box office opening in September of that year (and went on to gross north of $350 million worldwide), my view of the offering was this: "Frenetic rather than inspired and featuring an emerging plotline that has been done so many times before that any notion of novelty immediately flies out the window like a vampire-transformed bat, the flick might entertain younger kids weaned on ADD style entertainment. For everyone else, this is something of a slog to sit through....Thus we're left with a fairly listless offering that retreads the old overprotective dad and wanting-to-spread-her-wings daughter storyline we've seen too many times before, and peppers that with frenetic zaniness that simply isn't fun to behold (unless you're one of those aforementioned kids who enjoys such visual mania)."

Sandler has teamed up with half of the original screenwriting duo -- that being Robert Smigel -- to move the storyline of "Hotel Transylvania 2" forward a few years. The daughter is now married and has a nearly 5-year-old son, but this half-vampire/half-human kid hasn't dropped his fangs yet, so to speak. Accordingly, old Drac is concerned the tyke might not follow in his bloodsucking footsteps and thus conspires to have his daughter head off for some va-cay while he and his monster friends try to teach the boy how to be like one of them.

Like its predecessor, the film -- helmed by returning director Genndy Tartakovsky -- has lush visuals, plenty of zany material to appease the kids, another message of tolerance, and various bits of humor aimed at adults in hopes of keeping them from getting too antsy and wanting to fly away. But like before, it just doesn't gel like it should, although I found it slightly less grating than the first time around.

Simply put, the Pixar style magic just isn't there, and once again this feels like a cheap imitation of the real (and far better) thing. Maybe others need to head down to the crossroads to work things out. Until then, and as Captain Obvious says in those travel commercials, I'd suggest spending your money and time somewhere else and not checking into "Hotel Transylvania 2." It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed September 25, 2015 / Posted September 25, 2015


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