Back in 2012, when the trailers for the first Hotel Transylvania came out I, like a lot of people, thought we were going to get another dumbed down animated kids movie. What I wasn’t expecting was what we got: a hilarious but poignant story of a dad dealing with the scariest thing imaginable – his daughter growing up too soon. Yes, it had its problems, but it was fun and enjoyable while still having an honest emotional pull. Director Genndy Tartakovsky proved his successes on TV were no fluke. So, knowing how studios think these days, a sequel was a given.

Dracula’s daughter Mavis and her human boyfriend Johnny are now married and have a son, Dennis. Living in a monster hotel is fun for the half-human child (who shows no sign of monster-ism), but scary for an over-protective mom. Dracula adores his grandson despite his human-ness. But when Mavis decides that maybe Dennis would be better off living away from the hotel in the human world, Dracula decides to bring out the monster in his grandchild.

ht2-1Very much like the original film, this story’s center is a father who worries about a loved one so much that he is willing to go overboard to do what he thinks is best for them. What makes both these movies so surprising is that anyone who has been a father will completely sympathize with the character, despite the actual settings and circumstances, because the feelings are so real and their portrayal spot on. That’s something you wouldn’t expect from looking at the trailer or even the cast list. While the film’s heart is in the right place, other aspects of the story aren’t as fleshed out. A plot line where Mavis goes out into the regular world is way too short and leaves unmined a wealth of jokes or other story avenues. Instead it ends up being nothing more than a device to get her out of the way for awhile. Jonathan himself is given so little to do that he seems more like a “me too” character, who does nothing but nod in agreement with other more useful characters. Another story point that gets short shrift is the much promoted use of Mel Brooks as Dracula’s father, Vlad. He gets a quick mention early on but isn’t seen or heard of again until the final act. He’s part of the old guard of monsters who still hate humans and the late entrance makes any potential arc with him automatically have to be rushed. Finally, and more central a problem, is the ending of the film itself which turns a lot of the message the movie has been trying to relay feel completely obviated. (Can’t say more there without spoiling too much!) Overall, the whole thing felt more like a 30 minute short about Dennis dragged out to feature length. Cutting that filler and adding storylines around Mavis and Vlad might’ve helped.

Luckily the humor is pretty solid throughout the film, despite yet again being way too full of bodily function gags for my taste. Some of the best segments include: Dennis’ favorite TV character Kakie, a cake “monster” on a human Sesame Street-like show, infuriates the real monsters — and gets maybe the best line of the film; Dracula takes his grandson to the summer camp he used to go to as a child, only to discover that the same over-the-top touchy-feely, over-protective, political correct movement that has overtaken the human would of child care has also run amok in the monster world; and Dracula’s monster buddies realize that maybe they’re getting a little old and have lost their monster mojo.

ht2-2The animation is what you would expect from a major-but-not-top animation studio sequel: satisfactory. The sight gags weren’t as numerous as in the original, and the character designs not as imaginative. But overall nothing specific you could complain about. The music was not quite as good as the original. The score itself blended maybe a bit too much in to the background, and the songs were forgettable.

The actors were pretty good, despite the negative feelings some of them engender in the industry press in recent years. Adam Sandler has the most work to do as the worried father and he pulls off the job well. Selena Gomez and Andy Samberg don’t get a lot to do this time out but are fine when they do get something to say. Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, and Keegan-Michael Key as Dracula’s friends all are funny and with their roles nicely. Mel Brooks comes in late, but is a good addition and gets the job done. Some of the funniest acting is done by the minor characters: Dana Carvey the vampire camp director, Rob Riggle as Vlad’s servant, Jon Lovitz as the hotel’s Phantom of the Opera-esque musician, Chris Parnell as the Fly, and Chris Kattan as Kakie — all bring big laughs when they’re on screen.

While not as original or surprising as the first film, Hotel Transylvania 2 still touches the heart-strings and tickles the funny-bone. The plot is disjointed in parts and stretched too thin in other places, but overall kids will love it and adults won’t die of boredom either. But see the matinee since it’s probably not with the arm and a leg you’d have to pay at later showings. And, Sony: let Genndy Tartakovsky try to bring another film to life now rather than wasting his talents on reanimating another sequel.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Hotel Transylvania 2
September 25, 2015
89 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Genndy Tartakovsky