There’s little more that could be said about Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation that isn’t said in the first shot of the trailer below. One of the best shots of the year, and quite possibly all time. Like, I’ve gone back and watched it over five times while writing these opening sentences and I’ve laughed literally every time. Just thinking about it is enough to set me off giggling.
You get it now right? It’s funny. The way these characters look is funny, the way these characters move is funny. Genndy Tartakovsky draws from the likes of Keaton and Tati in the way he draws these characters, he finds in all of them such a simple postural elegance that defines the character from their movement outward. Yet it is combined with the manic propulsive energy of the directors of those classic shorts, the likes of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones.
The whole thing moves so simply and beautifully, yet each immaculately timed gag gives away the immense thought and care with which it is crafted. The thing is, with all these movies, that attention is only consistently within the moment. The rest of the joint can be shaggy and meandering, poorly constructed. No more are you reminded of this when any of the ensemble open their mouths and another voice from the Adam Sandler clan lazily floats it way out of the speakers.
That’s not entirely fair. Selina Gomez is perfectly fine as Mavis, these movies’ emotional centre. She brings the gravitas because for the most part it is solely foisted onto her shoulders. Andy Samberg is putting in a very Samburgian performance as her husband Johnny, I actually really like the dynamic the film creates for them as a young couple with a kid. Taking Sandler away from the writer’s chair this time seems to have drastically cut the casual misogyny that is present in so many of his projects.
Dracula here; surrounded by his married child and friends, living in the castle that he runs as a hotel – that also just seems to be everyone’s permanent residence at this point – is pining after his long dead wife. Seeking to possibly connect with someone new. His daughter, mistaking his mood as stress, books them on a cruise. The rest of the occupants of the hotel also come along. Which: sure, I’m not going to rag on these movies for not making sense. They fall in your lap as such a barrage of experience that you have little choice but to accept everything it offers for fear of being left behind.
Anyway, on the boat he may fall for the captain, voiced by the great Kathryn Hahn, and she may be a member of the dwindling Van Helsing clan, the final family in the world dedicated to the eradication of all monster life, and the cruise may be a trap to lure all the monsters to the lost city of Atlantis and their doom.
That’s all fairly incidental though until the last twenty minutes or so. The majority of the film is putting the cast in a variety of wacky sea-bound situations and watching the hijinks that inevitable ensue. That’s also kinda the problem with the franchise, everything is so hermetically self-contained that whole chunks of the film drift away on the breeze. I know there’s a whole scene on a deserted island but for the life of me I can’t remember what happened on it.
There’s a reason why the likes of Keaton, Avery and Jones worked primarily in shorts. Because a short only has to be one thing. You can get in and out as soon as what needs saying has been said. There’s a reason why the best Hotel Transylvania film is Puppy, the short played before The Emoji Movie – and it’s not just because it’s a pinprick of light before a near two hours of garbage. It comes in quick and fast, thoroughly interrogates its concept and then goes.
That said, in this movie they’re not allowed to bring pets onto the boat, so instead the kids dress the dog in a coat and tiny hat and nobody recognises it. I mean, that’s the whole thing they do with it, yet i just cackle whenever it turns up in the background of a scene. Because it’s a dog! And everyone thinks it’s a person! For some reason that’s the funniest thing my mind can conceive. It has a big gormless face and just stares directly at the camera, I love it.
The film’s solid. I’ve mentioned some things I’ve loved. You bet I’d mention more if I could remember any of them. The film is air, one makes it through unhindered but is left unimpacted by the entire experience. Tartakovsky apparently has two upcoming films now with Sony, hopefully they give him a chance to actually make one of his passion projects this time.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is currently screening in UK cinemas.