Even with its breakneck pacing, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” quickly runs out of material. The premise of taking a group of monsters and shoving them on a cruise ship as a friendly getaway feels desperate too, but the film is colorful, funny, and engaging enough for both kids and adults to find much to enjoy. While it may ultimately be forgettable, this is a creative and well animated entry into Sony’s cartoon monster franchise.
Dracula (Adam Sandler) is overworked and lonely. Running his hotel is taking a toll on the vampire, who spends his life taking care of other people on vacation. When his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) has the bright idea to book a cruise, Drac and the gang board a ship to exotic destinations like the Bermuda Triangle and enjoy all the traditional onboard activities like shuffleboard, endless buffets, and lounging by the pool. (I was pleasantly surprised not to see a Royal Caribbean or Carnival logo slapped on the side of the boat). When Dracula meets the beautiful yet mysterious captain of the ship (Kathryn Hahn), he falls head over heels in love at first sight — but she has more nefarious plans.
The plot doesn’t matter that much with a film like this. Neither does the corny script, the flat voice performances from the cast, or the fact that these aren’t lovable nor iconic characters, because kids will delight at watching the zany antics of the monsters as they explore the giant ocean liner. The attention to detail is extraordinary, with a crowded yet never cluttered fanfare of colorful background animation.
The film’s biggest surprise is Mark Mothersbaugh‘s spiffy original score, which lends a bit of whimsy to the project. Everything plays backup to Sandler, however, who is a standout in a role that he clearly has fun with. His enjoyment through his performance is contagious, and you’ll be rooting for Drac in no time.
The movie is simple and light with sight gags and flatulence jokes for the little ones as well as some well-placed parental humor for the adults (I dare anyone who travels not to laugh at the hilarious extended bit about Gremlin Airlines). The story gets a boost from a positive message of kindness and inclusivity, a feel-good narrative of tolerance and the importance of family. Groundbreaking it’s not, but you can find much worse family-friendly entertainment out there.