HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION is high speed comedic comic book action fun.
By Matt Cummings
Nestled somewhere between the visual delight of THE INCREDIBLES 2 and the thud of the disastrous EARLY MAN sits HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION, an entertaining yet flawed followup that manages to still make us laugh. It’s not every day that I can admit that I like three Adam Sandler movies from the same franchise, but this one’s humanity and message of acceptance mix quite well with the physical comedy of a vampire who’s just trying to get along with humans.
Built on the foundations of the previous films, Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his growing family of Mavis (Selena Gomez), Johnny (Adam Samberg) and grandson are off on a cruise to none other than Atlantis, taking Drac’s assortment of monstrous misfits with him. The reason for this excursion: Mavis believes that dad not only needs a vacation from the hotel but could a little love in his life. The latter arrives when Drac meets the ship’s captain (Kathryn Hahn) who also hides a secret: she is the granddaughter of Van Helsing, whose failures over the decades to kill Dracula have left grandfather in a steampunk version of Darth Vader’s suit. The problem is, both Ericka and Dracula begin to fall for one another, and that isn’t going to work for the elder Van Hesling. As the ship nears its destination and Van Helsing releases a weapon that could destroy Dracula and his friends, Ericka must decide whether she will fulfill her familial responsibility or allow the heartsick prince of darkness to enter her life.
I really adored the first two HOTEL movies, both for their mastery of the physical comedy of a brooding Dracula and in the message of love and protection that he and the other monsters display towards each other. Remember that Sandler’s little collection of comedy stars – including Kevin James, David Spade, and Steve Buschemi – have appeared in other Sandler crap-fests before. But franchise Helmer Genndy Tartakovsky won’t let Team Sandler turn HOTEL into an excuse for immoral behavior. Tartakovsky is able to keep them focused on the story while mixing in those human elements and physical comedy to make a largely entertaining brew. But there’s daylight appearing in this franchise, as many comedic moments do fall flat, not because they’re gross but because they’re just not funny. That’s not enough to kill the fun we’re having, including a great moment between Johnny and Mavis in which he uses Chinese philosophy to help her approach dad’s growing affection for Ericka. The sequence is something out of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and it’s one of the best scenes of the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Behind the fart jokes of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION, there’s a pretty strong message here about acceptance and the difficulties people can experience in dealing with it. But this movie is also just a fun time, complete with the physical comedy that’s made it such an enjoyable franchise. Sandler and company prove that they can still follow someone else’s lead to make a movie that doesn’t rely on carnal relations with your grandmother to put bums in seats. Its mix of humor, humanity, and horror will entertain a new generation of children who may recall years from now that their first steps into the genre came from this franchise. That may be placing the series on too high of a pedestal, but so much of this still works – even with its many missteps – that it’s hard to ignore its long-term value.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION is rated PG for some action and rude humor and has runtime of 97 minutes.