Genre: CG Animation
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Kathryn Hahn, Mel Brooks, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Joe Jonas, Molly Shannon, Chrissy Teigen
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Opening Day: 12 July 2018
Synopsis: In Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, join our favorite monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else's vacation at the hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.
Continuing the misadventures of Count Dracula and his monster entourage, Genndy Tartakovsky returns to the franchise for the third time that he started back in 2012 with Adam Sandler and a whole ensemble of comedians including Andy Samberg, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Kay, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher and Mel Brooks. Whereas the earlier two movies saw Sandler’s Count Drac fretting over his family, namely his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and his grandson Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), it is Mavis’ turn to fret over her father this time round, fearing that he has been too caught up for too long looking after the titular hotel and its eccentric denizens without having time to look after himself. And so, Mavis books his father and the hotel crew a holiday that consists of a life-endangering flight on board Gremlin Air followed by a cruise to the lost city of Atlantis.
But wait, as the prologue primes us, it isn’t going to be smooth-sailing for Count Drac, who may very well have to confront an old nemesis by the name of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). The nasty professor had been on a witch-hunt for Count Drac in the late 1800s, but had never succeeded in eliminating him, before finally plunging to his apparent death off a vast cliff. Fast-forward to present-day, his grand-daughter Ericka Van Helsing (Kathryn Hahn) is now the captain of the cruise, and it isn’t long before we find out that Ericka has dastardly intention to continue her grandfather’s legacy, or that Abraham Van Helsing had bested death over the past century by substituting his human organs for a hodgepodge of machine parts. While her grandfather insists that they wait till Atlantis to unleash an ancient monster upon Count Drac, Ericka has no such patience, deciding to set her own honeypot trap to kill the lord of the vampires once and for all.
It isn’t difficult to figure out that Tartakovsky and his co-writer Michael McCullers (who also wrote ‘The Boss Baby’) will have Count Drac and Ericka falling in love with each other, or that Mavis will initially harbour suspicions about her potential stepmother that Count Drac will promptly dismiss. Indeed, there aren’t that many surprises in the story, which squeezes in two stopovers at an underwater volcano and a deserted island before the final destination of Atlantis and the unleashing of the legendary beast known as the Kraken. In fact, more so than its predecessors, the narrative this time round is quite evidently meant only as a device to unleash a barrage of slapstick gags aimed at tickling the kids, although Tartakovsky does insert a couple of references (such as one about Egypt and being in denial, get it?) that only the adults with the right cultural background will probably grasp.
As for the gags, there are thankfully more hits than misses. Among the hits, some play like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation from the earlier films – such as the ever-versatile green blob monster known as Blobby and the overwhelming brood of werewolf children born to Wayne (Buscemi) and Wanda (Shannon) – and others like Dennis’ giant puppy Tinkles and a porcupine-like bride and groom Mr and Mrs Prickles are new. There are also a couple of amusing sequences, including one where Count Drac, Mavis and Dennis evade Ericka’s harpoons while scuba diving by aping the motions of a seahorse and sting ray, another where Ericka discovers that garlic ain’t quite so deadly to Count Drac as folklore suggests, and yet another where Count Drac follows and ends up saving Ericka from a myriad of booby traps in a secret chamber which contains the ancient scroll to awaken the Kraken.
But at the same time, there are also enough misses for you to realise that the humour this third time round isn’t quite as inspired. That talk about ‘zinging’ with a special someone is mildly amusing at first but gets increasingly stale. A game of volleyball in the ship’s swimming pool is awkwardly unfunny. And last but not least, the showdown between Count Drac and the Kraken culminates in a deejay competition that feels dull and tired, especially given that the ultimate tune which manages to put the Kraken in good vibrations is a pop hit from more than two decades ago. It doesn’t help that the list of supporting characters has grown even larger from the last outing, leaving little time or space for Count Drac’s usual quirky companions like Frankenstein (James), Griffin (Spade) or Murray (Key) to have any more than fleeting moments. Considering the sheer voice talent Tartakovsky has assembled, it’s a shame that many aren’t given much memorable to do, if at all, in the film.
Compared to the first two movies, ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ plays exactly like a summer vacation that you’ll enjoy for what it’s worth while it lasts but will likely forget once it’s over. It is arguably the weakest in the series, lacking the eccentricity that made the first so refreshing and even the poignancy that made the second welcome. We’re happy that Count Drac got to go on, in his words, a ‘hotel on water’ and found someone to spend the rest of his life with for however long Ericka manages to last (she’s a human, after all); still, we’d be lying if we didn’t say that we expected more from this sojourn. It’ll keep the kids entertained all right, and so long as that’s enough to please you, you’ll do fine checking into this perfectly disposable vacation.
(Lacking the freshness, eccentricity and poignancy of the first two movies, this third entry is divertingly amusing but ultimately forgettable)
Review by Gabriel Chong