"HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION" — 2½ stars — Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg; PG (some action and rude humor); in general release
In a recent episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," Jerry Seinfeld suggests comedy is purely a matter of taste and that different styles of comedy appeal to different audiences.
That may be the best argument for Genndy Tartakovsky's "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation." Sony Animation's sequel eschews the more sophisticated parent-pleasing humor of Pixar for a herky-jerky, flailing slapstick that feels like a substitute for comic substance.
"Summer Vacation" continues the "Hotel Transylvania" narrative reimagining Count Dracula as a hotelier. Where the first film saw him wrestling with the notion of his daughter getting married, the second made him a grandfather. Now, "Summer Vacation" redirects the focus toward Dracula's own love life.
It's been a long time since Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) felt the "zing" of true love — his first wife died some time ago — but as "Summer Vacation" opens, the Count is starting to dip a cold toe into the waters of 21st-century dating. The process gets an unexpected boost when Dracula's daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) surprises him with a special cruise to the Bermuda Triangle, where she hopes her hard-working fanged father will finally get the chance to be the one getting pampered.
The whole gang is along for the event: Frank (Kevin James), Wayne the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), Grandpa Vlad (Mel Brooks), Mavis and her husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) and grandson Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), who manages to smuggle his oversized dog Tinkles (Joe Whyte). After a hairy ride on Gremlin Air, the gang arrives at the cruise ship Legacy for a trip to the Lost City of Atlantis.
It's here Dracula meets Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the Legacy's fetching captain who quickly captures his heart. But as luck would have it, Ericka is the great-granddaughter of Dracula's longtime nemesis Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who is still alive and quite determined to eliminate the Prince of Darkness.
The serviceable if thin plot is little more than a premise to provide several comic set pieces filled with macabre characters. The zany variety of all said characters might be the film's strongest point, though it quickly becomes apparent the filmmakers are using a lot of flailing limbs and herky-jerky motion to make up for lack of good writing.
Your appreciation (and more importantly, your kids') for "Summer Vacation" will mostly depend on your tolerance for this brand of humor, which often employs the kind of childish gobbledygook dialogue that built Sandler's early reputation in the 1990s. There's not much driving the film in terms of conflict, so if the visuals and the humor don't grab the kids' attention, there's not a lot left to work with.
"Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" isn't bad so much as it is mediocre and tough to recommend against better options. It also leans just hard enough on gross-out gags to qualify for its PG rating — albeit with a PG-13 level of dog slobber.
"Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" is rated PG for some action and rude humor; running time: 97 minutes.