Avoiding Adam Sandler films is a lot easier than it used to be. Basically, he’s moved (with his aging fanbase) to Netflix, and the most prominent theatrical releases he’s in have him doing a goof Dracula voice for Sony Animation.
So Thanksgiving came early this year.
But as feeble as his Sony Animation “Hotel Transylvania” comedies can be, a sentient adult can find pleasures in the dazzling design, the occasionally witty sight gag and the ever-shifting state-of-the-art that such films advertise.
Kids? They’re just waiting for the next fart joke.
Starting “Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation,” the third film in this Sandler voicing Dracula-as-a-hotelier-and-doting-dad comedy series with a dazzling, photo-real train chugging from Bavaria to Budapest is impressive. The cruise ship featuring in the [plot — a summer cruise –looks like “Titanic” might in a James Cameron-directed Bullwinkle cartoon.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky emphasizes sharp angular lines — characters framing each other and the scene with their bent and lean body shapes — and snap-action, whiplash-quick character jumps and jerks.
The story, which packs the lovelorn Vlad, his daughter (Selena Gomez) and assorted friends from his Hotel Transylvania to a cruise in the Bermuda Triangle for a little flirting and dodging holly stakes to the heart, is almost interesting.
And there’s a commitment to the vocal performances, as if the collect-the-check years are over and Sandler and his cronies realize they’ve got to put the effort in, if only in front of a microphone, from now on.
It’s just the jokes that aren’t funny — not even to the supposedly undemanding (very young) audience these films are tailored to. Well, aside from the farts.
See Vlad have lilting accent issues with a (Sony) phone’s vocal assistant.
“I understand. I’ve ordered you baloney.”
A prologue on that train established Vlad the Impaler’s long history fending off the Van Helsings, vampire hunters from way back. But today, Vlad’s just a lovelorn widow, happy his daughter has married, but despondent that “you only get one ‘zing’ (love at first sight) in your life.”
His daughter misreads this as “You need a vacation.” But his pals who come along (David Spade as The Invisible Man, Steve Buscemi as Wolf Man, Keegan-Michael Key as Murray the Mummy, Kevin James as Frank (N-Stein), etc., all figure it’s a chance for romance.
“This isn’t The Love Boat.” No, it’s not funny, but it’s a very representative line from this very limp script.
Vlad “zings” for the captain of the Legacy (Just call it Titanic already), voiced by Kathryn Hahn. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to him, she’s just the latest Van Helsing to take a crack at killing Drac. Unfortunately for the film, she’s rather colorless as a voice actress and the character isn’t the least bit funny as a villain.
There’s a little “Nemo” in the scuba diving monsters vacationing scene, a visual pun from “300” in the way they slo-mo topple off the “cliff” of the ship’s stern, and a touch of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Van Helsing’s quest for some magical talisman from Atlantis that will give her family the edge in its fight with the supernatural.
What’s closer to funny are the bits floating around the film’s periphery. Joe Jonas voices an amusingly on-key lounge-singing Kraken.
The Mexican monster Chupacabra (Jaime Camill) sidles up to the bar and orders a drink — a goat in a martini glass.
Mel Brooks is back as the grandpa vampire — nothing funny to say, but all the witches on board chase him.
And one and all are “slaves to the rhythm,” little dance interludes that are as catnip to tiny tykes as fart jokes.
Messages in the movie are in sync with the shirtless, cabana boy monster-twinks of the lost continent resort of Atlantis — “We’re here, we’re hairy, and it is our right to be scary.”
All of which is a roundabout admission that there’s not a “zing” in this thing. But it is pretty to look at.
MPAA Rating:PG for some action and rude humor(Jaime Camil
Cast: The voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, David Spade, Mel Brooks, Jim Gaffigan, Joe Jonas, Fran Drescher
Credits:Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, script by Genndy Tartakovsky and Michael McCullers. A Sony Animation release.
Running time: 1