Family Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (PG)

Kernel Rating: 2 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 97 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. This latest “Hotel Transylvania” sequel transfers its characters from the titular hotel to a monsters-friendly cruise. There is some violence, including battles between monster hunter Van Helsing and the creatures he fears that include plane crashes, getting hit in the face and losing teeth, and being dropped into the ocean to drown; the implication is that he has killed monsters and the monsters would like to kill him. There are also characters attacked, characters fighting, characters getting burned, and a chaotic plane ride that may be scary for children afraid of heights. Some emotional conversations about growing up as an orphan and about losing a spouse and parent; some gross-out humor, including flatulence and gallons of dog saliva; some depictions of both male and female characters leering and flirting with others in bathing suits, as well as some kissing and romance; some scenes of city-wide destruction; and a scene where two characters encounter booby traps, including flung spears, arrows, and other dangerous items, which impale them.

The ‘Hotel Transylvania’ series keeps the focus on family with ‘Summer Vacation,’ which moves the monster crew to a cruise ship. Too similar to the latter ‘Despicable Me’ films in its plotting and lean on laughs, ‘Summer Vacation’ doesn’t offer much for either parents or kids.

By Roxana Hadadi

HotelTransylvania3FamilyVacation ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewThe “Hotel Transylvania” films go for a change of scenery with “Summer Vacation,” the third film in the franchise that transports its rag-tag crew of monsters from the halls of an old castle to the high seas on a cruise ship. But the film is like a mish-mash of elements recycled from other kids’ films like "Despicable Me," and the lack of creativity and laughs may make this sequel more boring than it is amusing.

Within 10 minutes, my friend’s two children who attended the screening with us, ages 4 and 2, began asking their aunt if they could leave, and they only perked up again in the film’s final 10 or so minutes, when the movie relies on a DJ battle and ensuing dance party to wrap up the storyline. That is about 20 minutes of excitement and 80 minutes of boredom, and that’s not a great ratio.

“Hotel Transylvania 3” begins with a flashback to 1897, when Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his fellow monsters, posing as old women to travel to Budapest, are uncovered by monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan), who vows to eradicate the evil of monsters once and for all—until he falls off a cliff into the ocean in a final show-down with Dracula. The altercation gives Dracula the idea for “a place for monsters to go get away from it all,” and centuries later Drac and daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), who is married to the human DJ Johnny (voiced by Andy Samberg) and mother to 6-year-old Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff), are running the place together.

Their business partnership uncovers two things: that Mavis feels like working with her father is taking away from their family relationship, and that Dracula is lonely, acutely feeling the loss of his wife as he constantly sees people getting married in his hotel. So when Mavis sees an advertisement for “a monster vacation,” she surprises her father by booking passage for everyone on a cruise—the first of its kind, led by human Captain Ericka (voiced by Kathryn Hahn).

“It’s just like a hotel on the water,” Drac grumbles, but when he sees Ericka, he changes his mind—setting off a series of events that makes Mavis question her close relationship with her father; involves hijinks for Dennis, his best friend Winnie (voiced by Sadie Sandler), and their gigantic pet puppy Tinkles; and offers up levity in the form of Dracula dancing on the cruise deck to Bruno Mars’s “24-Karat Magic” and garlic-caused vampire flatulence.

“Hotel Transylvania” is about 15 minutes too long, and its large ensemble cast means that most characters, while depicted onscreen, don’t do much. Dracula’s father flirts with a trio of witches on the cruise, but that’s about it; his friends encourage Drac to ask out Ericka (“Compliment her: ‘Your neck looks delicious,’” they suggest), but that’s about it; and most of the jokes here are overly familiar, like how Mavis and Johnny struggle to schedule a date night and the werewolf couple is overjoyed that the cruise offers childcare. Those latter gags will be amusing for parents, but for kids, most of the humor here is the slapstick-violence variety, and it’s neither creative nor unique.

“We’re here, we’re hairy, and it’s our right to be scary,” is said of the monsters as they make their way from the Bermuda Triangle to Atlantis, the final destination of their cruise, and there are some colorful, exciting visuals every so often: Dracula, Mavis, Johnny, and Dennis scuba-diving and swimming with whales and sharks, and a scene where Dracula and Ericka dance together and avoid a series of violent booby traps during their routine. For the most part, though, “Hotel Transylvania 3” feels like the slimmest of this series, and its infrequent jokes and lack of unique visual flair make it skippable on the big screen.

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