Family Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 2 (PG)

HotelTransylvania2 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 89 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 4+. The movie skews very young, with a breakneck pace, lots of slapstick violence played for humor, lots of bathroom humor and butt-related jokes, and some kissing.

'Hotel Transylvania 2' continues in the same vein as its predecessor, with Adam Sandler's Dracula struggling to keep up with modern society. The film should amuse very young children as much as it irritates adults.

By Roxana Hadadi

Adam Sandler can't be trusted with live action comedy anymore. "The Cobbler" was intolerable and offensive, and "Pixels" was one of this summer's – and probably this year's – worst films. His latest stab at animation, "Hotel Transylvania 2," will only amuse the youngest of children with its breakneck speed and overwhelming amount of bathroom-related jokes, but at least it's not as bad as those two films.

Sandler returns as Dracula, proprietor of Hotel Transylvania, which in the original 2012 film was open only to monsters like himself, including friends Frankenstein (Kevin James, of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"), the mummy Murray (Keegan-Michael Key, of "Tomorrowland"), the wolfman Wayne (Steve Buscemi, of "Grown Ups 2"), and the invisible man Griffin (David Spade, of "Grown Ups 2").

But in that film, the hapless, goofy, very California backpacker Jonathan (Andy Samberg, of "Neighbors") stumbled upon the establishment and caught the eye of Dracula's daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez, of "Getaway"), and "Hotel Transylvania 2" begins with their wedding. Soon they have a child, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), who is the light of Dracula's life, especially when he calls him "Vamp-Pa." But Dracula is concerned that Dennis hasn't yet shown any evidence of being a vampire, and if he doesn't do so before he's 5 years old (an arbitrary deadline given in the film, but never explained), that means he'll be fully human. And while Dracula has accepted that humans can stay at his hotel and ask him for selfies, he's not fully sure what he'll do if his descendant ends up being one.

So two plots diverge from that point: The first involves Dracula and his buddies taking Dennis on a road trip through all their old haunts, hoping to scare some vampiric ability into him. The second involves Mavis, concerned that Hotel Transylvania isn't the best place to settle down with her family and continue raising Dennis, and instead visiting Jonathan's very California parents in, well, California, to consider that option instead.

As you can expect, those plots end up intersecting toward the end of the film, but not without very many butt jokes and wasted attempts at other kinds of humor later. Some things land well, like Dracula trying to figure out how to use a smartphone with his overly long claws, and his version of "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" for Dennis is just inappropriate enough to amuse ("Suffer, suffer, scream in pain, you will never breathe again").

But the pace is so frenetic and most of the material so average that "Hotel Transylvania 2" won't really work for parents, who will grow tired of Dracula's overwhelming concern with Dennis's future. Isn't it just important that the kid is safe and, for whatever strange reasons, adores his Vamp-Pa fully? And – spoiler alert! – the film falls into the same disingenuous trap of last year's "Turbo," in which a character seems to accept something that doesn't happen to them, that doesn't make them "special" in some arbitrary way, only to end up receiving that power anyway, nullifying their previous self-growth. Pretty much that exact thing happens by the end of "Hotel Transylvania 2," and it feels like any growth or advancement exhibited by Dracula is pushed aside for a "happier" ending.

Dracula says, "Human, vampire, unicorn – as long as you're happy," to his daughter Mavis and grandson Dennis, but the film reneges on that good will with a conclusion that makes the previously open-minded protagonist disappointingly limited and almost, in his own way, bigoted. Conversations with young viewers could revolve over whether they felt the ending was necessary, whether Dracula is capable of love and affection, and how they think that family will grow up and what they will experience together. Despite "Hotel Transylvania 2's" overall averageness, at least parents can get some discussions with their children out of it.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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