This third in the garish Hotel Transylvania franchise is surprising in only one way. Its cast and director are the same as before, whilst its plot resides in largely familiar territory. What’s harder to believe is that it’s taken Genndy Tartakovsky and company three films to finally introduce Dracula’s infamous foe Professor Van Helsing to the mix.
Looking for all the world like a Maleficent-Michelin Man mash up, Van Helsing (Jim Gaffifan) has devoted over a century to his mission to wipeout Dracula (Adam Sanford) with no avail. Ghostbuster- inspired blasters just don’t cut it apparently. Luck twists his way, however, when the Count happens to cross his path whilst on a cruise arranged by his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). His plot might be as threadbare as they come – it involves a rediscovered Atlantis and ‘the instrument of destruction’ – but is complicated somewhat by Dracula’s infatuation with the ship’s human captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). Quite the character transformation from film one. It’s almost admirable.
Thin plot and weak humour aside, Hotel Transylvania 3 does at least continue its predecessors’ generous morality coda. As Mavis puts it: ‘It doesn’t matter where you come from or how different you are.’ A family-first adventure, the film’s central concern is the drive for love in the face of hate. Tired of his lonely life, Dracula is in want of a partner but plagued by the concern that he’s already met and lost the true love of his life – the film calls it your ‘zing’ – in Mavis’ mother. In this inclusive world of monsters, however, change is always on the tarot cards.
Less changeable would be the quality of the franchise itself. Part three is every bit as loud and irritating as the first and second. Whilst contenders include an aeroplane scene and epileptic dance party, the most annoying sequence of the film comes early on, with the marriage of Mr and Mrs Prickle. Three guesses as to what they look like. Officiated by a mumbling green blob, the wedding is obnoxious enough to induce headaches even before Tinkles the giant puppy crashes it. Nothing here is so wretched as anything in Sony’s recent Emoji Movie but the incessant bright colours and violent slapstick share traceable heritage. It would be unfair to dismiss the animation quality on display, which is Tartakovsky’s most accomplished to date, but it’s hard not to wish for a less gooey aesthetic.
Amiable gags – a skeleton at the all-you-can-eat buffet – are a rare occurrence amid a barrage of on the nose dialogue and snarky asides. Criminally, second film saviour Mel Brooks has only five short lines in the whole film and they’re hardly rib-tickling. His best is an ironic: ‘Boy, that stinks!’ The real stake to the heart here though is a horrific product placement by Sony early in the film, via a scene in which Dracula needlessly devotes time to online dating. It’s unsurprising from the studio but belies the financial focus of the films, which feel all the more soulless as a result.
If your children can’t get enough of the Hotel Transylvania brand, this third film is more of the same. Literally so: ‘It’s just like everything we can do at our Hotel,’ says the Count. ‘Except it’s on water!’ Comes the reply.