Drac looks for a new Countess in Genndy Tartakovsky’s third ‘Hotel Transylvania’ cartoon.
Sending its gang of cuddly monsters off on a holiday at sea, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is exactly the kind of energetic, middlebrow ‘toon-timekiller fans will expect. It’s also the series’ biggest peddler yet of one of the most damaging lies movies have ever sold to young people: That there’s one and only one love out there for everyone in the world; that it can be recognized at first sight; and (advocates for the abused love this part) that you must never give up on that true match, even if she’s trying to kill not just you but all those you love.
The asterisk here is that a person might get a second chance at a “zing” (the series’ sickly-cute name for true love), provided that your first one has died. Hotel Transylvania’s proprietor Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), having been a widower for well over a century, begins at the film’s outset to yearn for a new neck to nibble. But he has barely started swiping through the menagerie on ghoul-hookup app Zingr when Mavis, mistaking his loneliness for workaholic fatigue, books him and all their friends on a surprise vacation: a cruise beginning in the Bermuda Triangle and destined for Atlantis.
Drac’s buddies Frankenstein, Wayne the werewolf, et al are sure he’ll meet somebody on the cruise. No sooner has he chided them, “this isn’t the Love Boat,” than a lithe acrobat flies through the air and makes Drac go goofy with infatuation — a white-clad woman with a platinum pixie cut who turns out to be the vessel’s Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). She also turns out to be a member of the Van Helsing clan of vampire-hunters, though it’ll be a while before the passengers learn that.
In a flashback to 1897, we see Dracula and Ericka’s great-grandpa in an amusing series of Coyote/Road Runner encounters, with Van Helsing getting foiled so many times he eventually gives up. But the human villain has kept himself alive all this time with a series of steampunk substitute body parts, and has trained Ericka to loathe vampires above all other beings that make bumps in the night. She’s supposed to take the ship to Atlantis so the old man can retrieve what he believes is a secret weapon there, but Ericka is impatient and makes several covert attempts to slay the soft-hearted bloodsucker en route.
The movie flirts with the usual mixed-signals of romantic comedy, but is on much more solid ground with sight gags (as when Drac’s jello-like blob friend happily absorbs the slice-and-smash violence Ericka aims at the vampire) and character work that depends less on celebrity voice talent than on body-language animation: Though not used much this time around, Mavis’ hang-loose husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) slouches and sways his way into a few laughs near the end. Though much of the design work is either generic or derivative, the folks in charge of motion earn their keep.
This being a kiddie picture, Ericka will eventually zing for the Count, and even her grinchy great-grandpa will see the light: Monsters or humans, “basically, we’re all the same,” as Drac puts it. Here, at least, is a moral more worth feeding to elementary-school kids than “a zing only happens once in your life” or “a zing never lies” — and certainly less harmful than the third-act admonishment, “you’re just a half” a person until you create an “infinite whole” with someone else.
Production company: Sony Pictures Animation
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Mel Brooks
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenwriters: Michael McCullers, Genndy Tartakovsky
Producer: Michelle Murdocca
Production designer: Scott Willis
Editor: Joyce Arrastia
Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh
Casting director: Mary Hidalgo
Rated PG, 97 minutes