[Screen It]


(2018) (voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez) (PG)

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Animated Comedy: Dracula and his family and friends take a cruise where he ends up falling for the ship's human captain, unaware that she's the great-granddaughter of his longtime vampire-hunting nemesis.
Despite having family and friends and running a successful hotel for monsters, Dracula (voice of ADAM SANDLER) is lonely, having lost the "zing" of his life, his wife, long ago. Mistaking that for being overworked, his daughter, Mavis (voice of SELENA GOMEZ), surprises him with a cruise into the Bermuda Triangle and the ultimate destination of Atlantis.

Joining them is Mavis' human husband, Jonathan (voice of ANDY SAMBERG), and their young son, Dennis (voice of ASHER BLINKOFF); along with Frankenstein (voice of KEVIN JAMES); Wayne the werewolf (voice of STEVE BUSCEMI); Murray the mummy (voice of KEEGAN MICHAEL KEY); Griffin the invisible man (voice of DAVID SPADE); Dracula's father, Vlad (voice of MEL BROOKS); and a variety of other family members and fellow monster friends.

Despite believing one only gets one single zing (love) in their lives, Dracula ends up instantly smitten with the ship's captain, Ericka (voice of KATHRYN HAHN). Unbeknownst to him or anyone else, she's the great-granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing (voice of JIM GAFFIGAN) who long ago hunted Dracula and his kind.

Still alive thanks to a number of old mechanical contraptions, he's also on board and wants Ericka to lure Dracula to him. But she wants to get the job done herself, although her quest ends up complicated by the fact that she starts to fall for the bloodsucker.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Back when I was a kid and "The Brady Bunch" was airing in prime time, one of my favorite episodes (actually a two-parter) was when everyone was uprooted from the back-lots and occasional everyday locations in Los Angeles and sent to Hawaii. It was like a summer vacation for them as well as me (vicariously) to a far-off, exotic land with fun in the sun, surfing, Marcia in a bikini (be still my then prepubescent heart) and mild moments of danger.

Looking back at that unusual storyline and location, it sort of seems the powers that be either wanted to justify a business expense vacation to Oahu or were sort of grasping at straws to breathe some life into the series' fourth season (in what, a decade later, would come to be known as "jumping the shark").

Oddly enough, I got that same sort of semi-desperation vibe when watching "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," the, natch, third installment of the computer-animated monster mash-up comedic film series that began in 2012 and continued with a sequel three years later.

While those first two flicks mostly stayed in the titular, monster-friendly locale, this one figuratively and literally jumps ship as the majority of the story takes place on a so-called hotel at sea, a.k.a. a cruise. And like the various Brady characters who ran afoul of a cursed ancient Hawaiian token so long ago, there's a similarly old device in this nearly 100 minute offering that could be bad luck (and more) to our goofy, somewhat of a stick-in-the-mud grandfatherly vampire, Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler once again in definite, over the top cartoonish form).

But before that part of the plot arises and after a prologue set in the late 19th century where one of the Van Helsing clan, Abraham (voiced by Jim Gaffigan), tries to kill Dracula but is repeatedly foiled Road Runner/Coyote style (albeit with less imagination), the story settles on the old bloodsucker coming to realize his once-a-life "zing" (true love) happened long, long ago and he's destined for a life of widowed grandfather.

Mistaking that for being worn out from running the monster hotel, his daughter (Selena Gomez) surprises him and their family and monster friends with a cruise. He hates the idea and begining of that until he sets sights on the acrobatic captain (Kathryn Hahn) and has his heart go all aflutter and his tongue ends up tied.

Little does he know that she's actually the great-granddaughter of Van Helsing and has lured him onboard in order to kill him once and for all, if not by various impromptu attempts then certainly via the aforementioned device (that's located, you guessed it, in the Bermuda Triangle, which, oddly enough, you never really hear about anyone).

That might sound like pretty grim material for a movie aimed at young kids, but it's certainly not uncommon for the animated comedy genre (think of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, etc.). And writer/director Genndy Tartakovsky and co-scribe Michael McCullers manage to keep things out of enough potentially troubling thematic waters that the murderous storyline and agenda don't ever rock the boat too much.

And, as before, there's plenty of goofy humor to go around, especially featuring the various supporting characters (all voiced by the same folks), even if most of them aren't given much else to do in terms of story arcs, development or anything else beyond being little more than continuity and space filler.

So, in closing, the film feels a bit like that "Brady Bunch" episode in that it's leaving its normal setting but retains its familiar characters. Kids won't mind and will probably be entertained to one degree or another (and there's something to be said for that), but any parents or teenage guardians in tow might wonder if those behind the scenes are grasping for straws here just to keep the franchise going. Intermittently amusing, "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Camp" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed June 30, 2018 / Posted July 13, 2018

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