If you’re a little surprised that “Hotel Transylvania” got a sequel you’re not alone. The makers themselves seem a little bit taken aback. Even the title card of the movie itself has the ‘2’ only appearing after the ‘Hotel Transylvania’ has faded from the screen. Like they’re saying, ‘I know, right?’.
Picking up from the end of the first movie, Mavis and Jonathan tie the knot and before you know it, Dracula is a grandad. But his half human/ half vampire grandson Dennis is showing none of the toothsome qualities of his illustrious lineage and Mavis starts to consider moving to the human world where Dennis may be safer. As his fifth birthday approaches, Drac and his pals decide to pull out all the stops to make Dennis’ fangs come in before he turns five and remains a human forever.
The unexpected demand for a sequel may go part way to explaining why “Hotel Transylvania 2” feels so aimless for much of its running time. Lacking the strong, funny concept and straightforward narrative of the first movie, writers Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel seem uncertain which way to go in this one. They half-heartedly attempt a sort of monster/ human “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” but don’t really commit to it and the introduction of Jonathan’s human family doesn’t add a great deal to the proceedings. The monster hijinks as Drac tries to encourage Dennis to get in touch with his inner monster are more successful but a sequence where Mavis goes to visit California before moving there fails as anything other than a narrative convenience to give Dracula unsupervised responsibility for Dennis.
While the movie scrabbles to find enough story to fill the required 90 minutes of family friendly fun, there are at least plenty of corny, pun-fuelled sight gags and jokes to keep your mind off the lack of substance and while it feels like it takes an age to get there, the last twenty minutes deliver a high energy action packed comedy battle which almost makes the whole thing worth the wait. Thanks to director Genndy Tartakovsky the animation design is top notch and the voice cast are as good as the first time out. Everybody’s back (except Cee Lo Green whose criminal conviction sees his character now voiced seamlessly by the ubiquitous Keegan-Michael Key) with the added bonus of Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. Although they don’t get much to do, a little Offerman can make a big impact.
It may not provide the multi-generational, multi-layered pleasures of Pixar’s or even Dreamworks’ finest offering but it’s a pleasantly diverting monster mash which will easily keep anyone under 10 amused. The Mertmas certainly enjoyed himself, as did his 2½ year old sister, both giggling heartily at most of the gags and you know what? I chuckled a fair bit as well. With little direct competition on the horizon and the half term holidays approaching, it should do very well but, like “Minions”, that may be a matter of great timing rather than great movie.