Sequels to children’s films often feel forced and largely made to produce merchandise and milk money from obedient parents. This often leaves us with a bitter taste at the thought of once adored films. For example, Ice Age is currently on its fifth instalment. This isn’t always the case, though—I can think of numerous animations which used the same incentive yet manage to produce excellent films. Hotel Transylvania 2 failed to do this.
Hotel Transylvania 2 is our second taste of a gothic-themed comedy following the life of hotel owner, Count Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler. The first instalment, released in 2012, left critics unimpressed. It did, however, manage to generate heat amongst parents, grossing $42.5 million in its opening weekend. Inevitably this international success led to the director and producers alike pushing for more.
We join the Hotel Transylvanian crew as they celebrate the marriage of Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), to a quirky and lovable human. Straight away the film introduces the fast-paced, humorous tone as we are subjected to joke after joke.
With Robert Smigel in charge of the screenplay—a writer who has written for award-winning comedies like Louie (which I highly recommend watching) and Saturday Night Live—I was expecting a relatively refreshing script. And although I thought the script was the strongest part of this film, I still felt let down by the lack of originality. Part of me wants to largely blame co-writer Adam Sandler, who has continually produced poor comedy films that are often just annoying.
The storyline, or the lack thereof, felt very forced and unnecessary. We were focused on tensions between Dracula and his daughter as she raises her newborn child—who is half human and half vampire. Dracula being Dracula can’t picture a world where his grandson isn’t a vampire, however first-time mother Mavis has accepted her son as a human without giving it much thought. Her basis for believing that he was human and setting up the story for the entirety of the film, was her son’s kind nature and ginger locks. Given that this was probably the first human/vampire hybrid in existence, I don’t think ginger hair was enough evidence to go on! So instead of talking it through, which would have probably solved this very simple problem, for the next 89 minutes we were bombarded with Dracula & co. getting into sticky situations.
Sticky situations, may I add, that never could build tension. It was constantly masked by cheap one-liners, which often seemed more important to get across than the actual events unfolding. If they were in a race against time, there was always a spare moment in which jokes could be shoehorned in. The result? A film which felt like it was made to tell the audience bad jokes and the storyline was just the train track that was struggling to help these jokes along.
With an all-star cast and award winning writers, director Genndy Tartakovsky failed to impress in this, his fourth feature length film. Tartakovsky’s animation work in the past has been inspiring. Many will remember Dexter’s Laboratory, and more recently Star Wars: The Clone Wars. With these in his bag, you’d have expected more than we were given. A sequel was always going to be a challenge. The first instalment of Hotel Transylvania was massively helped by the fact that we were experiencing the gothic, ‘monster’ owned hotel for the first time. But once we were past the idea, the film needed interesting and dynamic characters to carry it along. Unfortunately this was missing in Hotel Transylvania 2—but that doesn’t appear to have stopped audiences flocking to this film, having grossed $47.5million in its opening weekend, breaking the September opening record, set by none other than the its predecessor. If it carries on at this rate, I’m sure that in a few years, we will all be watching Hotel Transylvania 10, thinking back to the ‘good years’ of the original.