Monday, October 19, 2015
Movie Review - "Hotel Transylvania 2" - The Trouble With Animated Sequels
Second verse, same as the first.
In an age where sequels to well-received animated movies seems to be more common, it is a bit disheartening to find these sequels only strive to be like the first film. Movies like "Despicable Me 2," "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2" and "Rio 2" might have done well at the box office and were hits with children, but these films basically amounted to a repackaged version of their predecessor, with many of the same jokes, character development and lessons. We do get the occasional sequel from Dreamworks or Pixar, like "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Toy Story 3," that exceed our expectations and make us realize that the animation industry can be insightful as much as it is colorful, but those seem to be the rarity these days.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you liked the first film), "Hotel Transylvania 2" does not try to do much else other than recapture the fast-paced humor and quirky horror characters of the first film.
Don’t get me wrong, "Hotel Transylvania 2" is not a bad film by any stretch. The jokes are still lightning fast and the motion of the monsters as they are set on fire or thrown off cliffs is always good for a laugh. Many of the characters see improvements over the first film, especially Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez). In the first film, she had no character other than being a shut-in and serving as the inspiration for Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler). This time around, Mavis is an over-protective mother who knows about the outside world and wants nothing more than to explore it, even if that means getting caught out in the sun.
While the first film had Mavis pinning to explore the world, in this film we actually get to see her explore California and fall in love with the simplest of things, like a 7/11-type store open 24 hours a day and kids playing in a skate park. Her enthusiasm for slushies and extreme sports is contagious.
Other characters that see more significant roles include Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James), who has a nice bit early in the film, as he attempts to wear Dracula’s cape, only for the cloth to strangle him.
Dracula is unchanged from "Hotel Transylvania." Still overprotective, proud of his heritage and just a bit goofy. Sandler still does a wonderful job as the prince of darkness, practically disappearing in the role. If you were uninterested in seeing either of the "Hotel Transylvania" movies due to Adam Sandler being in the lead role, know that this is an exception to Sandler’s suckage as of late. He has very little creative input in these movies, and only serves as the role of Dracula, making the best use out of Sandler’s comedic talent and proving that he can be funny, given the right direction.
However, like the first film, "Hotel Transylvania 2" has many of the same problems as the first film. The human characters are rather annoying or uninteresting, including Mavis’ husband, Johnny (voiced by Andy Sanberg). Johnny comes across like a slacking surfer dude without the water or the surfboard. I’m still not sure what Mavis sees in him.
Johnny’s family is even worse though, especially his mother, who makes every single statement as if it were a back-handed insult towards vampires and monsters. When you portray your world as free of prejudice against monsters and being far removed from the "old days" of burning monsters, it comes across a bit strange when Johnny’s mom keeps being disrespectful, whether that is on purpose or not.
"Hotel Transylvania 2" also loves to blast modern music, like the first film, which seems at ends with the atmosphere and old-fashion attitude of Transylvania. It is very off-putting to have a serious moment between Dracula and his grandson, only to have it broken up by a musical number to a song I still hear on the radio, while Dracula break dances.
But the biggest waste in this film has to be Dracula’s father, Vlad (voiced by Mel Brooks). Not only do we not see or know anything about him until the last twenty minutes of the movie, only to find out he is extremely old-fashion and despises his son for opening up a hotel, but that is ways of living for the past couple hundred centuries can be easily broken and convinced to run any other way. By the end of the film, Vlad is convinced of the power of love and family, and that humans aren’t all bad. I understand this is a kid’s film, but that is contrived and bad writing for the sake of a happy ending.
Part of me thinks Vlad’s character would have been so much better if he was a stubborn rock about everything, unwilling to see anything other than his way. It has worked for the past 10,000 years, so why should he change now? Vlad should have been all about the purity of monsters and that any other creäture of the night that doesn’t see like this are not worth prowling the dark corridors.
Instead, all he needs to hear is one speech from the son he supposedly disowned about how awesome his new great-grandson is and that he should love his family, and he is convinced to love humans. Weak.
Overall, "Hotel Transylvania 2" has many of the same good points as the first film, including the animation, voice acting, humor and atmosphere, but it falters on writing, consistency and character development. At times, it feels like a carbon copy of the first film, but other times it feels a bit weaker, especially near the end. But ultimately, "Hotel Transylvania 2" is a harmless, cute film that is fun for both children and adults, and proves that Adam Sandler and company can still be funny in the right conditions.
Final Grade: C+