With a reported $47.5 million debut weekend, Sony Pictures Animation’s freaky-but-wacky Dracula-run establishment continues to do good business. The first film raked in over 350 million dollars worldwide, so it would seem that “business” is the main reason the filmmakers have decided to offer audiences a chance at a second stay.
The film opens one-year later — Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), and her husband Jonathan (Andy Samberg) are now parents to a child named Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). Dracula (Adam Sandler) is happy, seeing that he is now a ‘vampa’ and his establishment is more successful than ever now that humans are allowed to check in. Unfortunately, the high-strung vampiric father soon finds himself drowning in stress once again as Mavis plans a visit to Johnny old stomping grounds. His friends are yet unaware that the baby Dennis carries an inner monster and, perhaps even worse, Dracula’s father Vlad (Mel Brooks) is planning a visit.
Juggling between three plotlines, the experience this time around is something more like a series of skits (as glued together by a toddler). The new, more interesting stories – old-fashioned Vlad’s imminent arrival and Mavis’s bonding with the human world – feel both extraneous and haphazardly crafted; what meaningful messages they have are tossed aside for jokes and attempts to be hip. In place of Jonathan’s grating characterization (and he’s been toned down quite a bit) are the inclusion of smartphones, remixed YouTube videos, butt-centric visual gags (one of them a tasteless jab at the hair of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), selfies, duckfaces, pop music and distracting product placement that harkens back to “Eight Crazy Nights.”
Even with its flaws, the first film retained that aura of trying something new; an honest effort to realize an idea. Hotel Transylvania 2 is more like a glorified company presentation than a film, using vivid colors, hectic animation and their target audience’s undemanding nature to feather out the obvious corporate fingerprint. The blindfolding act makes the film a more tolerable watch than The Transporter Refueled and Hitman: Agent 47… but only just.
A shame, then, because Hotel Transylvania 2 could have been an inoffensive affair, much like its predecessor. Even if only three of the ten jokes land, there’s always enough time in the day to enjoy Genndy Tartakovsky’s nimble style of animation, from his vivid use of colours, to his direction of the action. In terms of acting, the only people who seem to be enjoying themselves are Steve Buscemi (as werewolf dad Wayne), Keegan-Michael Key (replacing Cee-Lo Green for Murray) and a notably underused Mel Brooks (Vlad). A noteworthy thing about Brooks’ character — while marketed as the antagonist, the oh-so-interesting and oh-so-underused Vlad is more akin to a cameo.
Without a TripAdvisor, Yelp or Kayak page, we’re taken it upon ourselves to warn travelers that this hotel has become the sort of soulless castle Dracula fears. The guests may be walking and donning all the top styles, but Hotel Transylvania 2 resembles more their flatlining hearts and “what am I seeing” visages.