You’d think that Disney Pixar’s Incredibles 2 would have been enough to frighten off any children’s animations from being released in cinemas around the same time but it turns out Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation doesn’t spook so easily. (It’s understandable; they’re the ones that are usually doing the scaring after all, right?)
It might be fairer to say that they’re doing all the comedy, as this instalment is undoubtedly the funniest of the lot. Once again, it centres on Adam Sandler’s charismatic Count Dracula, whose daughter Mavis notices that he’s been acting a little odd lately. In truth, the Lord of Darkness’s recent mood swings are because he’s been feeling lonely, but Mavis mistakes his behaviour for being stressed out at work and encourages Drac and the gang to take a vacation.
Said break has them hopping aboard a luxury cruise, exclusively for not-so-imaginary creatures, and seeing all kinds of dazzling new sights. (No, we’re not just talking about Drac’s lairy Hawaiian shirts). By taking the monsters out of the titular dwelling, the characters get the chance to explore a gremlin-run airline, the Bermuda Triangle, the site of an underwater volcano and the lost city of Atlantis; settings that make for some colourful set-pieces that are sure to delight younger audience members. Mavis riding a whale, Blobby making a beach parasol from his green, goo-like body and a giant kraken serenading them as they walk into a neon-lit casino are just a few examples.
The jokes come thick and fast throughout and older viewers might be surprised to see some more grown-up gags about using social media to find love, the delicate balance of juggling a holiday romance and family fun-time and the sweet relief you feel when you discover your resort has a crèche, mixed in with slapstick silliness and flatulence-based funnies.
Seeing as this is their third run as these characters, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg and Sandler do skilled, comfortable work as young vampire mother Mavis, her hippy husband Johnny and Drac respectively. Elsewhere, kid-favourite characters such as Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) and Frank the… well… Frankenstein’s monster, who is voiced by Kevin James, don’t have all that much to say this time round.
Instead, it focuses more heavily on human newbies Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) and his great granddaughter Ericka (Kathryn Hayn), the cruise’s Captain who has a legacy to fulfil and a complicated relationship with the ship’s most infamous vampire guest to navigate. Both prove decent additions but their arcs are painfully predictable, zapping what little mystery the plot possessed as soon as they are introduced.
Its need to play it safe has always been where the Hotel Transylvania universe, which now consists of three films, several video games and a TV series – (it may well be trying to outdo Dracula’s immortality) – has let itself down most across the years. Just because it’s catered towards children, doesn’t mean it has to dumb down each film’s story as much as it tends to do.
That being said, Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation has enough going for it that little ones – and perhaps even some big ones – are still likely to be entertained. It’s fairly forgettable but for those who enjoyed its predecessors, this monster mash is a cruise line smash.