The latest in Adam Sandler’s animated franchise, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” isn’t a bad movie, but it might have been more fun if it was.
When an animated movie is simply awful, a viewer (or a critic) can marvel at where the whole thing broke down, and why nobody could apply the brakes when they had a chance. (Patton Oswalt has a hilarious routine about writing jokes to augment a bad animated movie.)
But this latest “Hotel Transylvania” throws together familiar characters, a lot of gags — some good, some meh — and something that one might, under duress, describe as a plot, and calls it a day. it’s not so much a movie as a movie-like product.
Sandler again voices Count Dracula, still running a luxury hotel for his monster friends. (A prologue — in which Drac and the gang dodge the clutches of the monster-hunting Abraham Van Helsing, voiced by Jim Gaffigan — shows the inspiration for the hotel.) Drac should be happy, living at the hotel with daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) and her human husband Johnny (voiced by Andy Samburg), their son Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff) and his giant-sized puppy Tinkles. But Drac, a widower, is lonely with no one to share his coffin.
Mavis mistakes Drac’s pining as stress, so she plans a vacation for the family and all their friends — on a monster-only cruise ship, the Legacy, making a run from the Bermuda Triangle to Atlantis. Drac is unimpressed, seeing a cruise ship as nothing more than a hotel on water, but that changes when he falls head-over-cape for the ship’s human captain, Ericka (voiced by Kathryn Hahn). But Drac’s hopes for romance are complicated by what Ericka is hiding below decks.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky, co-writing with Michael McCullers (“The Boss Baby”), stage some solid jokes, capped by an Indiana Jones-style obstacle course that becomes a romantic tango for Drac and Ericka. But for every sequence that works, there’s two or three that land with a thud. And a voice cast loaded with Sandler’s friends and other comics — Kevin James, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Parnell, and even Mel Brooks — is given not enough good lines to deliver.
The storyline, focusing on Drac and Ericka wrestling between love and family loyalty, doesn’t sustain itself to the end. Instead, we get a finale that relies on needle-drop soundtrack choices, not the talented voice cast, to produce its last laughs. It’s just one more missed opportunity in a movie that disappoints more than it entertains.
★★ (out of four)
‘Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation’
Opens everywhere on Friday, July 13. Rated PG for some action and rude humor. Running time: 97 minutes.