Movie Review: “Hotel Transylvania 2” – All Flight, No Bite

Written by Matt Butler October 09, 2015

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When I saw Inside Out, I was warmly reminded by the largely adult crowd around me of the powerful cross-generational grasp of animation. Just because a film looks colourful and simplistic does not make it less suitable for a mature audience. However, after seeing Hotel Transylvania 2, with an audience mostly consisting of young children -with a wailing toddler in the front row as the icing on the cake- I was brought back to disheartening reality. Though most mainstream animation can be appreciated by the entire family, the predominant audience – at least marketing wise – is still children. But it wasn’t the audience of Hotel Transylvania 2 that brought me to this conclusion.

Hotel Transylvania 2 continues the romance of Mavis (Selena Gomez) a vampire, and Johnny (Andy Samberg) a human, starting right off with their wedding. The story follows their struggle to raise their possibly vampiric son, Dennis, as well as Uncle Drac (Adam Sandler) in his struggle to ensure that vampire blood still runs in the family’s veins. With the help of the “Drac Pack” (Kevin James as Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi as Wayne, David Spade as Griffin, and Keegan Michael-Key as Murray), Dracula embarks on a trip to teach Dennis the ways of a vampire before he is whisked away with Mavis and Johnny into the human world.

“I don’t say bla, bla-bla”

In the film’s first few minutes I could already see its greatest strength: character design. Just like with the first, Genndy Tartakovsky has immersed Hotel Transylvania 2 in his signature Saturday morning/retro style, packed with full expressiveness and brisk movement. But this also turns out to be the movie’s greatest weakness, an indulgence in its own marvellous energy. Whereas the first film knew how to give each monster its fair share of the screen -tying it all together with fierce comedic timing- the sequel’s monster mash up reeks of desperation, with creatures clogging up the frame in every attempt to get in a joke. While this rapid-fire clusterball technique has proven effective in films like The Lego Movie and The Simpsons Movie, the writers still need to demonstrate a sense of unity in their style and substance. Most of the jokes are thrown in without setups, context or consequence to the story. Hotel Transylvania 2 runs more like an early draft of a Family Guy episode than it does a movie.

“The real monster is diabetes”

Now, if I could pinpoint the source of the film’s problems, it would be one person and one person only, and no, it’s not Adam Sandler, it’s Dennis (though I suppose since Sandler got a screenwriting credit, he could have been responsible for writing him in, yeah, let’s just go with that…).

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The issue with Dennis is he doesn’t serve much purpose as a character, but more as a plot device for lazy screenwriting. Since his only characteristics are being adorable and amiable, he causes no conflict himself and is barely affected by any conflicts around him (no child is THAT perfect…). This allows Drac and Company to go about on their rampant spree of irrelevance with him for nearly two thirds of the movie until it realizes “Oh crap, we only have 30 minutes left of screen time! Quick, throw in a one-dimensional antagonist and an underwhelming Mel Brooks cameo!” I figure, if Dennis was a few years older (say 10 years old) and naturally less agreeable, then he’d be able to play a bigger part in his own story while still acting as the bridge between the film and its younger audience.

“ZING”

I suppose I should thank Pixels, ironically, for reminding me to lower my expectations for an Adam Sandler project. Though I was disappointed by Hotel Transylvania 2, I can’t say I was infuriated. This is just your typical case of sequelitis; a film driven by the success of its predecessor, but run dry of the originality that made it so. Though the integration of technology with the monster world serves as an interesting jab at our screen-obsessed generation, it only goes so far before the joke becomes blatant Sony product placement. It seems like the writers and animators just didn’t have anything left to do with their monsters and just threw whatever they thought was colourful and lively up onto the screen. 

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Hotel Transylvania 2’s manic energy will certainly keep the kids’ attention, but without the pacing or emotional depth of the first, it’ll leave the adults heaving for breath. If you haven’t seen the first, I strongly recommend you check it out (it’s on Netflix) but as for its sequel, Hotel Transylvania 2 might as well have been one of those bonus shorts they include on the DVD, that just happens to be an hour and a half long. There’s no originality, no substance, no heart, and just no point to it. I’m just glad that what it IS is forgettable.

My Rating: 4/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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