I have to admit, I was ecstatic when asked to attend an advanced screening of Hotel Transylvania 2 produced by Columbia Pictures in association with LStar Capital and Sony Pictures Animation. My family and I are fans of the first animated comedy, Hotel Transylvania. This hilarious second installment shifts into high gear, following Dracula (Adam Sandler) aka “Drac.” His “monsters-only” hotel now accepts humans thanks to the marriage between his 125 year-old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her surfer husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg). As the Human Resources Specialist, he “updates” the staff with nanotechnology that leaves Drac struggling to use a smartphone.
My daughters and I were constantly laughing throughout the film thanks to snappy writing by Robert Smigel and Adam Sandler, along with innovative film direction by Genndy Tartakovsky, who also directed the first film. Drac’s blundering monster sidekicks also return, bringing chuckles by keeping the hotel operating semi-smoothly. You’ll find loveable innkeepers like Frank (Kevin James) aka a not so “gruesome” Frankenstein; Griffin (David Spade) the invisible man who’s on the hunt for a soulmate; Wayne (Steve Buscemi) the werewolf, husband and father of a growing pack of werewolf pups; Murray (Keegan-Michael Key) the mummy and “life of the party,”; and Wanda (Molly Shannon), Wayne’s wife and nurturer to her busy pack of pups.
Just when Drac and the crew adjust to life at the hotel, Mavis becomes pregnant. As a character-driven comedy, there’s a boatload of hilarious scenes with brilliant sight gags wonderfully illustrated with 3G animation. Adam Sandler is masterfully funny in the role of Drac as the worrying “Vampa” aka Grandpa throughout the film. Vampa Drac must also learn a few more lessons about love and acceptance. Once Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) is born, he appears like Johnny with red flowing locks, and doesn’t have any monster features like his Vampa or Mavis. Dennis happily plays with the other monsters, especially his BFF, Winnie (Sadie Sandler), a werewolf ready to marry. Johnny and Mavis sincerely want Dennis to be happy despite whether he’s a human or a monster. However, Dennis’ non-monster features worry Drac into speeding up the transformation process. Drac’s father, Vlad (Mel Brooks), doesn’t like humans and the two haven’t spoken in years until the day of Dennis’ fifth birthday party.
Mavis also goes into “nurturing overdrive,” worrying about whether Dennis’ living arrangements should be “monster-free.” Selena Gomez was marvelous portraying Mavis, the young mother, looking out for what’s best for her impressionable preschooler. Of course, visiting Johnny’s parents and his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif., to check out more human interaction seemed liked the best solution. As this is Mavis’ first trip away from the hotel, she makes a few fact finding discoveries of her own. Again, we giggled watching Mavis taste 48 flavors of slushies at a 24/7 mini-market. Her lips and tongue resembled the many hues of a brilliant rainbow. She and Johnny also explore a skatepark, where she borrows a mountain bike and does a little more than pop wheelies! Johnny’s parents Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally) go out of their way to make Mavis feel welcomed. However, Mike also blows the whistle and tells Mavis that Linda had initial fears of being eaten by some of Mavis’ family members. The special effects were amazing throughout the road trip scenes!
At the same time, Drac secretly takes 4 ½- year-old Dennis on a road trip to monster boot camp – Camp Winnipacaca aka “Camp Vamp.” This disastrous drive is designed to show all of Drac’s old “haunts,” as well as, scare some fangs into Dennis’ mouth. What’s a road trip without great music? Drac and his pack were partying to Fifth Harmony’s smash single, “Worth It,” and “GDFR” by Flo Rida” throughout their mishap in the woods of Camp Vamp. While here, Drac learned some costly lessons about following listening to wise counsel versus doing what you desire. Although modernized, this 900 year-old woodsy camp still appeared gothic with black log cabins and a creepy condemned tower. While frustrated with the watered-down camp activities, Drac decides to kick the transformation process up a notch.
Unfortunately, campers record the botched attempt on their smartphones, leaving Dennis slightly startled and humiliating Drac. He and the crew head home, hoping to arrive before Mavis and Johnny. It’s one journey after another in this side-splitting adventure, which includes great music and incredible breakdance sequences. I highly recommend this movie for ages 6 and older. I asked my 8 year-old what she learned from the movie and here’s her response: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a monster or a human. The most important thing is to just be you. Don’t try to be anything else.”
Rated: PG for some scary images, action and rude humor.
* We attended a screening for editorial purposes. Our opinions are our own.