Genre: Animation, Comedy
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Mel Brooks
There it is. His name. Right next to starring, and writing, and producing. Adam Sandler.
The king of unfunny comedies that strain to be profound has taken his schtick to the colourful world of a Genndy Tartakovsky (Hotel Transylvania, Dexter’s Laboratory) animation that’s populated with the traditional Halloween monsters. As he retrofits his brand to Hotel Transylvania 2 the scariest thought occurs, because this here is an Adam Sandler movie that’s actually good.
Sandler is Count Dracula and he is determined to get his grandson to “grow his fangs” in order to stop Mavis (Selena Gomez) moving to her husband Jonathan’s (Andy Samberg) hometown and thus the human world. That’s the thrust of the story and whilst it’s rote, it does the job and serves its purpose, reflecting the story’s themes of growing up, letting go and fitting in, whilst setting up the next joke. Sandler, writing with Robert Smigel, delivers a lazy script. The story structure is flawed as evidenced by the underdeveloped final confrontation between the good monsters and the bad monsters. However, the fact that they give a full arc to a five-year-old is a lovely surprise as it turns Dennis from a MacGuffin to a character. On the other hand Mel Brooks’ Vlad has his entire arc condensed into one scene with Brooks’ performance lacking menace; luckily his character design features plenty.
Tartakovsky turns the script from bad to good; every broad stroke of character in the script is turned into a Picasso on the screen. His visuals nail the retro Hammer Horror aesthetic and his version of the characters and the film is brave enough to risk the wrath of the ‘Twihards’ as it mocks modern vampirism. Gary Oldman’s Dracula costume appears to just be a repeated punchline. It’s a shame Sony aren’t moving forward with his Popeye adaptation.
The other famous monsters are played by the usual Sandler Squad – Kevin James, David Spade and Steve Buscemi. Each of them is fine but the script lets the literary legends down, making them joke conduits instead of characters. Nick Offerman’s line delivery gets the most laughs as his fed-up suburban dad is a relatable figure amongst all the ghouls and ghosts. Sandler curbs his brand of comedy, crafting humane, observational jokes with a splash of slapstick. The jokes are good enough to create a consistent chuckle rate that will make the 89-minute runtime whizz by. The film also finds time for some metaphoric humour as Jonathan’s parents try to make Mavis “normal” and they try too hard to accept her. It’s just a shame the metaphor is too obvious as the script could have potentially taken a left turn, and explored what it’s like now that humans are no longer scared of monsters and desire selfies with Frankenstein like One Direction fans desire selfies with Liam.
Hotel Transylvania 2 is an Adam Sandler movie and, for the first time in a long time, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a funny, fun and sweet, but not too sickly, Halloween treat that suggests Sandler should consider moving into animated movies permanently.