Imagine a concoction mixing "Dracula", "The Adams Family", "National Lampoon's Vacation", "L'Atalante", and "The Lady Eve". And why not while were at it, add in Adam Sandler and his crew of genial cockeyed buddies who have made a living off jokes on the subject of, well you know, the first half of the term "cockeyed". Sound like a forgone titanic disaster? You may have been on to something, if it wasn't for the puerile urgency , not to mention bliss, director Genndy Tartakovsky brings to the enterprise. That isn't to say his commentary on the alienated monsters doesn't come without its fare share of target audience pollution. However, the message on equality and family is as pure as ever--with the exception of a few fart jokes. But it's the vibrant and equally pasty animation, adamant pacing, array of beguiling characters, and slapstick humor makes the latest in the trilogy a breezy vacation rather than a perilous voyage.
The film sets sail to a macabre style animation opening sequence. A Wile E. Coyote inspired flashback to 1897 that sees monster exterminator Van Helsing(Jim Gaffigan),--ironically a monster in his own right, whose forehead could only be a product of Peter Sarsgard's offspring in the "Green Lantern"-- attempt to exterminate Dracula(Adam Sandler) by means of train, plain, and automobile, as well as by gun and submarine. You would think Helsing would have been smart enough to save some money. Especially with the recession caused by the Panic of 1893 being in full effect, and just bought a stake. The reason comes in the form of the thesis of airy animated comedies. The stakes can never be high. This isn't Pixar mind you. The goal here is to simply give families two hours of lighthearted uninspiring fun. Where there are enough originally zoetic creatures to fill a zoo to satisfy the kids, and find time to machinate enough narrative structure to keep the paying adults interested, enough.
The story truly takes off when Dracula's gracious daughter(voiced with joyous beauty by Selena Gomez) proclaims she has had enough! Vampires deserve a vacation too, and the Hotel Transylvania(which the two own) can't be the easiest place to run, let alone keep up. So she suggests a cruise as a vacation. Luckily the journey on this "hotel on the water", or Noah's Arc for monsters, is every bit as enticing as the destination. From a plane ride with rambunctious Gremlins, to the towering Bermuda Triangle, to a Vegas esque Atlantis, Tartakovsky's exciting animation excites in the intimate and grandiose equally. Vistas including salmon sunsets as backdrops to the monstrous cruise ship and underwater volcanoes are greeted with the same detail and light as the poignant characters. Tartakovsky, if you hadn't noticed from the first two movies, has a special gift in generating visual emotion onto the faces of his heroes.
Heroes of course, are always better with side-kicks, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have us believe. So it's no surprise when Draculas' grown up buddies--who also happen to be Sandler's grown up buddies-- join in on the fun. Enter the "Drac pack", an entourage of compassionate ghoulish counterweights to the distinct blood-curling creatures that have scared audiences on the big screen for nearly a century. There's Wayne the Werewolf(Steve Buscemi), Frankenstein(Kevin James), The Invisible Man(David Spade), The Mummy Murray(Keegan-Michael-Key), as well as Dracs allegedly handsome father, Vlad(Mel Brooks). I say allegedly, because he may be, besides occasionally the un-witty script, the scariest thing in the film. Though the real shock is the old school energy being exerted from this thing. For all its vapid facetiousness and lack of purpose, you can't help but leave with spring in your step.
And not just because of the climatic DJ/dance off that positions good verses evil, good vibrations verse the thumping bass that is techno music. In one corner of a magnificent floating Colosseum is the irritable Van Helsing,whose ancient electronic score contains the power to harness a purple octopus the size of three Pantheons. In the other, Mavis' husband Johny(Andy Samberg). A curly headed human with a room temperature IQ, and a laptop filled with catchy oldies. But will absurdity like this ring summer fun? Maybe not for those who prefer to tune out its quirks and pre-teen humor.Yet many, like myself--those who stay above water that is--will find themselves at the very least entertained by a skirmish that trades the Avengers for the Macarena.
"Hotel Transylvania 3" ends up being a mixed bag, filled with the occasional sweet surprise. As it effortlessly floats between nutty screwball and shameless zingers, but lacks the lovable zing it so desperately tries to erect. Though the zing our hero Dracula hesitantly chivies, the equally radiant and malevolent cruise-ship-captain Ericka(voiced dutifully by Katherine Hahn), may be as dubious as a love interest as any since Georgia Hale in Chaplin's "The Gold Rush". Both ladies end their comedic pictures with hearts of gold, on a cruise ship, but we can only hope for the best for the good-guy- vampire Dracula here. I won't spoil the result, but the getting there doesn't give us quite enough to sink our teeth into.
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