(NOTE: I had originally prepared this review for Aleteia, but then some guy from out of town named Francis showed up in America and hogged all the attention, so it never got published. As fate would have it, though, this week’s Sunday readings are all about marriage, so I’m recycling the review for this site. I hear that Francis guy approves of such frugal use of resources.)
“Hotel owner Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) is concerned that his half-human grandson Dennis isn't embracing his vampire heritage. He and his fellow ghouls put Dennis through a "monster-in-training" boot camp, but their efforts are complicated by the arrival of Dracula's dad, a traditionalist vampire named Vlad (Mel Brooks). Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, and Rob Riggle also lend their voices to this animated sequel.” ~ AllMovie Guide
“Blah, blah, blah!” No, that’s not the sound Dracula makes as he’s about to drink your blood. If there’s one thing Adam Sandler’s Count Dracula has made absolutely clear, it’s that he doesn’t say, “Blah, blah, blah!” So if you’re hearing “Blah, blah, blah!” that’s probably just the sound of my fellow movie critics still expressing their opinion of the first Hotel Transylvania movie. I myself found it to be average family fare, but most of my peers pretty much hated it. Audiences, on the other hand, enjoyed the film to the tune of $148 million domestic, so the inevitable sequel is finally here.
Things have changed a bit since the last time we visited the Hotel Transylvania. Dracula’s daughter Mavis and her slacker human heartthrob, Jonathan, are now married and the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy named Dennis. Well, okay, he doesn’t really bounce. Or turn into a bat or drink blood or go “Blah, blah, blah!” for that matter. Much to granddaddy Dracula’s consternation, his grandson doesn’t appear to be a vampire at all.
Worse, in Dracula’s opinion, is the fact that the insanely overprotective Mavis (like father, like daughter it seems) feels that a hotel full of monsters is far too dangerous a place to raise a human child in and has decided to move the family to Jonathan’s hometown in sunny California. In a last ditch effort to keep the family from leaving, Drac and his pack of pals attempt to jumpstart Dennis’ (hopefully) latent vampirism while Mavis and Jonathan are off in the States looking for a place to live. Hilarity ensues.
Well, as long as you thought the first movie was funny, anyway. Me, I was one of those “monster kids” who grew up with stacks of Famous Monsters and Fangoria lying around my room, meaning I could watch werewolves and mummies and blobs do slapstick all day long. So when a notoriously fire-shy Frankenstein’s Monster gets set ablaze and burns down a whole summer camp before he can be calmed down and dowsed, yeah, I tend to laugh. That’s really about as deep as the humor in Hotel Transylvania 2 gets, though. Those wanting their heartstrings tugged or their intellects tweaked would probably do better skipping this one and waiting for the next Pixar film to come out.
Of course, folks looking for such things really have no business walking into an Adam Sandler movie in the first place. With a couple of notable exceptions, it’s not like the man’s oeuvre reeks of films with complex themes. If you want in-depth explorations of human emotions, go see Inside Out a second time, but if you find it funny listening to a middle-aged Jewish guy kvetch about social media and modern-day helicopter parenting, then Hotel Transylvania 2 is right up your alley.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t try to throw in a little lesson along the way, as most animated features tend to do. A lot of the more humorous moments in the story come from Jonathan’s parents and their over-the-top attempts to prove they’re accepting of their son’s vampire wife. Particularly funny are the guest room decorated with merchandise from the Halloween store and the human-monster mixer thrown by Jonathan’s mother which includes a hairy hipster she’s mistaken for a werewolf. For adults paying attention, the allusions to interracial marriage are pretty hard to miss.
You know, I have to confess I wasn’t aware there was still that much of a stigma attached to interracial marriages in this country, not so much of one that somebody would feel compelled to address the issue in an animated movie. Maybe that’s because I’m Catholic, though. Back in the early 2000s, researchers from Baylor University found that Catholics were almost twice as likely as everybody else to be in an interracial marriage, with Catholics who regularly attended mass even more so. I guess we’re not kidding when we say Catholic means universal, huh? As for the Church herself, the only mixed marriages she’s overly concerned with are those between spouses with different religious beliefs due to the conflicts which can arise. Even then, such marriages are not forbidden, but only advised to be approached with caution and a commitment to “placing in common what [the spouses] have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ.”
Not that Hotel Transylvania 2 delves that deep into the discussion, mind you. As is befitting a movie featuring the Frankenstein Monster, the film’s subtext goes no further than “intermarriage good, discrimination bad.” Not very eloquent, but not offensive either. Which, come to think of it, is probably the nicest thing anyone has said about an Adam Sandler movie recently.