Summer means vacation, both on the movie screen and off of it. So while your family might be planning a trip to the beach (or someplace cool, in the thick of a ferocious heat wave), Sony Picture Animation has booked a cruise for Count Dracula (Adam Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) and the entire Hotel Transylvania crew for a third chapter in the ongoing animated series, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
If you are saying to yourself, “They made a third Hotel Transylvania movie?” you likely haven’t paid a lick of attention to the scary-funny comedies told by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) in recent years. It also means you don’t know how amusing and hyperkinetic these movies can be, with Summer Vacation being as imaginative, entertaining and inspired as its predecessors. These movies aren’t for everybody. But they consistently entertain their target audience, and likely pick up new, young audience members with each new installment.
They’re also the funniest movies Adam Sandler has made in the past few years (outside of the Noah Baumbach family drama The Meyerowitz Stories, which you definitely should not let your children watch). For real, if given the choice between any of the Hotel T movies, or the lazy drivel Sandler chip-shots over to Netflix, give me the comedic stylings of the wound-too-tight vampire prince and his eclectic family any day.
This time out, a wedding at the hotel has Dracula (Sandler) feeling lonely. Mavis (Gomez) overhears her father trying — and failing — to find love on an Internet dating service, and assumes he’s stressed from being overworked. Her solution? A monster cruise, run by human ship captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). Drac’s against it… until he lays eyes on Ericka and instantly falls in love (or “zings,” which is what monsters call it). The problem? Ericka has an ulterior motive for creating an officially sanctioned monster cruise, and it means trouble for Dracula and all of his friends.
Don’t let the plot fool you. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation isn’t a complicated affair filled with twists and turns. It is still, largely, a setup for Genndy Tartakovsky and his co-writers to spoof cruise-ship clichés, but as seen with their clever and unique eye. (Example: A skeleton tries to sample the all-you-can-eat buffet, but every piece of food falls through his rib cage and hits the floor.)
Genndy Tartakovsky’s animation style falls somewhere between Looney Toons and Cartoon Network-levels of physical zaniness, with a rubber-band bounce to its comedy. There’s a sequence set on Gremlins Air, the plane that the monsters take to their cruise. Passengers are hurtled out of windows, and coffee is spilled in laps, and its controlled chaos, all for the good of a guilty laugh. But in between, Hotel Transylvania 3 pit stops at The Bermuda Triangle and the lost city of Atlantis (which looks an awful lot like the desert city of Las Vegas), and it’s here where this franchise is able to deliver laughs and sights that no other animated series currently is trying.
To its credit, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation never runs out of imaginative creature-based gags to serve up to its crowd, with the scene-stealer being a green gelatinous blob that has an endless array of talents (including reproducing when he vomits… seriously). The movie continues the franchise’s welcome weird streak, and while it doesn’t have a signature summer-movie set piece until its very end, its hyper-physical antics encase a welcome message about inclusion and acceptance that make this Vacation a worthy trip for families.