Film Review: ‘Hotel Transylvania 2′

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Hotel Transylvania 2′ review: Fangs a lot.

We’ve had sexy Draculas and old Draculas and scary Draculas, so give credit to Adam Sandler for fresh thinking: No, his animated “Hotel Transylvania” character isn’t a funny Dracula, but he may be the first Jewish mother Dracula. The no-longer-funny-man has had a recent string of onscreen disasters, both in wannabe indie efforts (“The Cobbler”) and supposed-to-be summer blockbusters (“Pixels”).Sony Pictures Animation follows up their 2012 monster hit with a breakneck sequel, in which Dracula fears his 5-year-old grandson may not grow up to be vampire enough.Acclaimed German/Turkish director Fatih Akin and Mardik Martin, a screenwriter of Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” and “Mean Streets,” collaborate in this harrowing study of the 1915 Armenian genocide that claimed 1.5 million lives.But as delightful and inventive as the animation continues to be in the sequel, some audience members who check in once again to the Hotel Transylvania may not find the latest series of pratfalls particularly worth checking out.

But, Vampires might start looking for some sunglasses because the spookiest thing about “Hotel Transylvania 2” is how much funnier, colorful and original it is this second time around. Adam Sandler, returning as the family patriarch, is delighted at the arrival of curly haired Dennis, the offspring of daughter Mavis and “slacker” human husband, Johnny. Because even without showing you Sandler’s bored, so-over-this expressions, “Hotel Transylvania 2″ still reeks of his kind of by-the-numbers comedy; just another kiddie cartoon, pumped out to keep a so-so franchise going and maybe bring in some merchandizing dollars. In this incessantly busy story, the famed Count has consented to his daughter’s marriage to a human, but finds himself faced with a new tolerance challenge when his grandson Dennis is slow to develop fangs.

Then everyone can continue to live happily together in a hotel built for monsters — Frankenstein, the Wolfman and the Invisible Man all hang around looking for laughs, as does a green gelatinous blob that looks like a dropout from “Monsters University.” If the boy turns out to be human, though, everyone plans to leave “Vampa” behind and move to California, where the bloodsucking figures to be merely metaphorical. Like the first horror show, the sequel features the overprotective Drac worried about his daughter, Mavis – now grown up, and married to an all-too-human California dude. What ensues is an avalanche of zany hijinks dominated by groan-worthy wisecracks targeted at young and old audiences alike, and Adam Sandler and his castmates’ overcooked scary accents. The only story element worth mentioning is that the kid will reveal his nature at age 5, by which time a vampire’s fangs will appear, which means the movie mostly consists of killing time until the climactic fifth birthday party at the end.

The first film, basically an animated version of Adam Sandler’s invite-my-friends-over movies like “Grown Ups,” had a talented cast and gave it nothing to do. Unlikely to win over anyone who wanted to torch its predecessor, this more-of-the-same sequel should nonetheless prove a welcome pre-holiday diversion for the first film’s pint-sized fans, and at least equal the impressive $148 million haul of Sony’s earlier surprise hit.

Filmed in widescreen 35mm in Germany, Canada, Cuba and Malta, it follows the mute man on his arduous quest over thousands of miles from the Ottoman Empire to Minnesota, searching for his missing twin daughters and, in a sense, his vanished Catholic faith. After a brief intro races through vampire Mavis (Selena Gomez) and human doofus Johnny’s (Andy Samberg) nuptials, as well as the infancy of their baby boy Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), returning director Genndy Tartakovsky’s follow-up grounds itself in the weeks preceding the kid’s fifth birthday, which serves as the de facto cut-off point for bloodsuckers to sprout their chompers. But while the first Hotel Trans had humour for both younger and older audiences, this one will likely fall short in its appeal to adults, although there’s plenty for the little monsters to enjoy.

Instead of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” he sings “Suffer, Suffer Screaming Pain.” When little kids are around, his idea of treating them to yoga is having them stretched on a rack. That deadline’s impending approach strikes fear in the heart of Dracula (Sandler), whose newfound ability to stomach human guests in his hotel — and in his beloved daughter’s bed — is not so great that he’s about to sit idly by and assent to his descendant’s mortality. Although Genndy Tartakovsky has his own funky style, the movie itself looks bland, with every classic monster turned into a cutesy caricature. (Only during the closing credits do we see a little of the quirky charm Tartakovsky used to bring to TV shows like “Dexter’s Laboratory.”) Nor does the script (which Sandler helped write) help out. Further compounding his anxiety, Mavis, concerned that the spooky hotel is no longer a safe home for her kid, is considering moving her brood to California. The movie is a sort of kindergarten “SNL” sketch extended by having Dracula break dance or by introducing Johnny’s boring parents (Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman) to stand around feeling awkward and get Drac’s blood coughed on them.

When Mel Brooks checks in to play Dracula’s dad, harrumphing and looking exactly like Grandpa Munster, you realize Sandler and Co. aren’t trying any harder than they did in “Jack and Jill” or “Pixels.” Dracula’s daughter, noting that the old man has carried a grudge against humans ever since an angry mob killed his wife, tells her father, “Maybe you’ve let humans into your hotel, Dad, but I don’t think you’ve let them into your heart.” It’s tragic that these bloodsucking ghouls are emotionally unavailable. Director Eli Roth has managed to do this in artful, cheeky ways with “Cabin Fever” (flesh-eating viruses!) and “Hostel” (commercialized torture!). This allows for some entertaining parallel comedy as Dracula and his motley crew learn their world has been modernized to the point they are more rock stars than feared creatures.

The result is a series of equally tepid bits involving ancient rituals, visits to dark forests and plunges off perilously high towers that, like the rest of the proceedings, all revolve around the fact that, for all Dracula’s bluster, he and his once-frightening friends are now defanged spooks embraced by a 21st-century population less apt to greet their appearance with screams than with requests for selfies. The first half is a dull eco drama in which a college freshman links up with a group of activists headed to the Amazon rain forest to livestream and shame developers who are threatening the land of an ancient tribe. As is modern mainstream animation’s custom, adults are meant to be mildly amused by the few jokes tossed their way, from a fleeting image of Cesar Romero’s Joker from TV’s “Batman,” to Johnny donning a Dracula costume modeled after the bulbous-haired vamp Gary Oldman played in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film. Yet the action’s tone is so juvenile, and its pace is so breakneck, that those gestures (as well as a late appearance by Mel Brooks as Dracula’s evil daddy Vlad) seem like paltry concessions to the unfortunate grown-ups tasked with enduring these proceedings alongside their own progeny. Any message about the need for open-mindedness in life and love, however, is muddled by a slapdash plot that ultimately cares less about taking a stand in favor of progressive values than it does in superficially employing such feel-good ideas for unimaginative, hyperactive adolescent slapstick. (Animated) A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with LStar Capital, of a Sony Pictures Animation production.

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Alex Portin; editor, Catherine Apple; music, Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, Michael Kurinsky; art director, Steve Lumley; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital). supervising sound editor, Geoffrey G. Griffin’s “girlfriend” — like him, she’s invisible, so you can’t prove she’s not there — is also pretty funny, and the bit is delivered in just the small doses it deserves. Rubay; re-recording mixers, Michael Semanick; visual effects supervisor, Karl Herbst; visual effects, Sony Pictures Imageworks; animation supervisor, Alan Hawkins; character designer, Craig Kellman; layout artist, James Williams; casting, Mary Hidalgo. And because he happens to leave his front door unlocked (doesn’t everybody?), she walks in and discovers that he has an unexpected secret. “The New Girlfriend” is based on a story by the late, great mystery writer Ruth Rendell, whose novels have formed the basis of a number of superb French thrillers, including “La Ceremonie” and “Alias Betty.” But Ozon makes some fundamental changes to Rendell’s story, tilting it in a direction that is gloriously outrageous and yet more sentimental than Rendell ever would have tolerated. Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Dana Carvey, Rob Riggle, Mel Brooks.

Sometimes, you get the idea Sandler, who co-wrote the film with Robert Smigel (director Genndy Tartakovsky returns from the original), gets afraid to stray too far from what he thinks his audience wants. It’s cute enough, but it doesn’t really amount to much more than Saturday morning cartoons. “Meet the Patels” is the unlikeliest of success stories.

A first-generation Indian-American, Ravi reveals that just before filming began he broke up with his first serious girlfriend, the red-haired, non-Indian Audrey. The film’s candor allows it to make keen points about love, marriage, family and the unexpected complications that American freedoms can bring to immigrant lives.

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