09242017Headline:

“Hotel Transylvania 2” review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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Dracula, Mavis and all of their monster friends return in “Hotel Transylvania 2,” a sequel that boasts a tremendous amount of heart but unfortunately, not a whole lot of laughs. Proving that lightning doesn’t strike twice, the focus of this film is on the newest addition to the fold – a four-year-old boy named Dennis, and it shows in the juvenile direction that this tired script by star Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel takes us.

Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg), everyone’s favorite mixed couple, are getting married and the whole gang’s invited, as well as Johnny’s human family. The timing couldn’t be any better since the hotel is now accepting human guests. Times sure have changed, to say the least! In a bit of mental whiplash, the first few years of this marriage are rushed through, including Mavis’ pregnancy, before the film settles on a storyline about their child, Dennis, approaching his fifth birthday. The reason this age is so significant is because Dennis hasn’t developed fangs yet. In fact, with his genes split evenly between a human and a vampire, there’s a 50 percent chance that he might not. However, some vampires have historically been known to be late bloomers – including his proud grandpa Dracula (Adam Sandler). Naturally, this is a point of contention for the King of the bloodsuckers (once upon a time, at least) who would love nothing more than to see Dennis take his place among the vampiric greats.

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Unfortunately for Drac, his progressive daughter Mavis decides she would like to bring the normal (i.e. non-fanged) child up far away from her father and the residents of his hotel. In an absolute shocker, she wants to raise their child near Johnny’s parents, Mike and Linda (played by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally), in the states! Surprisingly, Johnny isn’t a big fan of the idea and he wastes no time in going along with his father-in-law’s plan to keep Dennis at the hotel, while the two take an introductory trip to California. So will this be a little quiet time for a boy and his loving grandfather? Not a chance as Dracula invites the whole crew for a monster boot camp of sorts. That’s right, if little Dennis is ever going to get his fangs then there’s no time like the present. And if Dennis does become a vampire, then surely the family will have to stay in Transylvania. One thing is for certain, this gives a whole new meaning to the childhood calamity known as “teething!”

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With a little help from his friends Frank (Kevin James), Griffin (David Spade), Murray (Keegan-Michael Key), and of course Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and his ever-increasing litter in tow, what follows is one feeble attempt after another, orchestrated by Dracula, to try and teach the kid the ways of vampirism (innocently, of course). They even visit a “monster camp” run by counselor Dana Carvey, where we get Dennis thrown from a seemingly 50-story water tower, just to see if he’ll sprout bat-wings and fly. Kids, don’t try this at home! What the boys don’t realize is that Mavis and Johnny are coming home sooner than expected, but that turns out to be the least of their worries since Johnny previously invited Drac’s father Vlad, the original Dracula(?!), voiced by screen legend Mel Brooks, to Dennis’ fifth birthday party extravaganza. On a related note, I know it’s supposed to be a hotel but am I the only one who feels that all of these monsters just live there indefinitely? If not, the Hotel Transylvania must have a great rewards program.

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I have to say I was really looking forward to this sequel, having enjoyed the first film so much. And, for all intents and purposes, it should be a recipe for success as we have virtually the same exact cast (save for Cee Lo Green), returning director Genndy Tartakovsky, and the same two funny guys writing the screenplay. So where did it go wrong? I can tell you that a lot of the adult-oriented humor of the first film was lost upon this sequel, instead fashioning itself as a blatant attempt to cater strictly to children. As a result, the laughs are truly few and far between.

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That’s not to say that it isn’t enjoyable on a certain level. There does happen to be a couple of funny bits involving Griffin’s “invisible” girlfriend and a Sesame Street-esque television monster who preaches about the horrors of Diabetes! Truth be told, it also has a great message of love and acceptance behind it like the first film. It’s actually a very sweet movie, with an adorable red-headed child protagonist, not to mention Wayne’s too-cute-for-words daughter Winnie. But adults, who may have laughed heartily at the escapades of these characters in 2012, will find themselves eyeing the exits this time around. With that being said, they won’t be able to leave (nor should they!) as their children will rightfully enjoy it.

** (two out of four stars)

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