Review – Wow, an Adam Sandler Movie that Doesn’t Suck (“Hotel Transylvania 2”)

A sequel to the very funny Adam Sandler animated CGI film (yes, he’s only funny in voice-over, apparently), where Dracula runs a secret hotel in Transylvania for monsters only. But times, they are a’ changin’!

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We pick-up with Dracula (Sandler) and his wacky friends, the Frankenstein monster (Kevin James), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), and Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade) all abuzz for the wedding of Drac’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) to the human ginger-haired, California dude, Johnny (Andy Sanberg). The hotel, now accepting humans as guests, has Johnny’s weirded-out parents (Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman) pretty much okay with their son marrying into a vampire family and co-running a hotel for all manner of creepy creatures. Hey, it’s 2015! The hotel even has wi-fi and digital ads on the wall!

Mavis soon announces that she’s pregnant and Drac goes all loopy with excitement, not hearing the fact that the child might be born all-human. Years roll on by and little four-year-old red-haired Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) has yet to become a vampire, much to the dismay of grandpa. The vampire rules state that if he doesn’t sprout fangs by age five, he’ll stay human forever! Concocting a plan with Johnny, Drac has his daughter and son-in-law visit California, while he takes care of “Dennis-ovich”, but all the while Drac plans to teach the child how to be a monster.

Dracula uses the help of his BFF’s, but all his plans go south real fast, even a quick side-trip to his old vampire summer camp, Winnepacaca, which has changed into a touchy-feely place for young vampires run by a geeky counselor (Dana Carvey). Meanwhile, in California, Mavis figures out the whole trip was a trick to get her away from Dennis, and she returns home to angrily confront dad. He decision to move out is put on hold until after Dennis’ fifth birthday party, but there’s a major wrinkle. She accidentally invited Drac’s father, the strict patriarch and head of the vampires, Vlad (Mel Brooks).

With the gala birthday festivities at the hotel in full swing, Vlad shows up, along with Bela (Rob Riggle), his twisted and evil bat-lieutenant. A last ditch effort by Drac (by using Vlad) to turn little Dennis into a vampire backfires, and Dennis runs away into the forest, only to be captured by the evil Bela! What happens? An ending straight out of any children’s fairy tale (or a 60’s Saturday morning cartoon show, if you were around back then like me) that wraps the story up into a nice, neat, exciting and predictable little bow.

Robert Smigel (of SNL fame and who also wrote the first movie) co-wrote this along with Sandler, and it’s directed again by Genndy Tartakovsy (Dexters Lab, Stars Wars: Clone Wars), so the pacing and humor is still present. The plot isn’t quite as fluid as the first one, but the target audience (kids) will love it, especially with all the extreme silliness and outrageous sight gags. Adults will enjoy the pop-culture references thrown in to keep them happy, including a ‘monsters getting old and forgetting how to be frightening’ scenario. The middle-aged Werewolf saying he enjoys Pop-Tarts over killing a deer? That’s funny stuff!

The action and inoffensive jokes are fast-paced for the short-attention span audience members and there’s dozens of visual gags happening in the background, so keep your eyes open. There were some unanswered questions I had: when did the hotel move from the deep forest to the lake? If the hotel now accepts humans, why isn’t it HUGE on the news and over-run with tourists? Drac and Mavis are okay with being outside in the daytime–when did this happen? Vlad is the ‘king vampire’ and doesn’t even know his own son runs a hotel? AND has a grandson?

Anyway, all the actors voice-over’s are perfect, (although Kevin James as Frankenstein does sound just like Seth Rogen), and Sony’s animation is crisp and clean, though not on a par with Pixar, who’s the master in CGI, let’s face it. Hey, you could do worse than to take your kids to see this, and with Halloween around the corner, it’s the perfect seasonal treat. Until The Peanuts Movie comes out in November, that is!

Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)
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Mel Brooks’ bestie, actor Rudy DeLuca, took a stab at writing/directing his own film in 1985 (like Brooks and Gene Wilder did) and learned to regret it. In his one and only directed film, DeLuca shot this disappointing comedy on location in Yugoslavia with a gaggle of talented actors that wanted to be somewhere else.

Jack Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) and Gil Turner (Ed Begley, jr) are newspaper reporters for The Sensation, a sleezy tabloid run by Turner’s father, Mac (Norman Fell). After a stupid video shows a Frankenstein monster attacking some tourists (obviously staged), the guys are sent to off to investigate. They arrive in Transylvania and Jack (the serious one and ladies man) immediately hits on Elizabeth (Teresa Ganzel), a NYC tourist with her precious little daughter in tow

Anyway, they book themselves into the brand new Hotel Transylvania, run by the town mayor, Lepescu (Jeffrey Jones) and his wacky staff of weirdo’s: dim-bulb housekeeper Lupi (Carol Kane), her “Igor”-like husband Radu (John Byner), and the very strange and lanky butler Fejos (Michael Richards), who thinks he’s a hysterical comedian, but isn’t.

Through their investigating they meet an odd assortment of locals like Odette (Geena Davis), a sexy Vampira-wannabe nymphomaniac, a Wolfman (Donald Gibb) who isn’t really a werewolf, and Dr. Victorio Malavacqua (Joseph Bologna), a crazed Sicilian doctor who created his own version of a Frankenstein monster. When Elizabeth’s child is taken by the Frankenstein creature, everyone fears the worse, but it turns out all of the ‘monsters’ are the good guys and it’s the doctor who’s the dangerous one.

This film plays out like a college student project with poor lighting, bad sets, and improvised scenes that go nowhere. The script may have looked good, but in the end, everyone acts like they’re trying waaaaaay too hard to be funny. I suppose somebody thought this was a laugh riot, but it certainly isn’t for the viewer. The actors didn’t put alot of faith in DeLuca as a first-time director either and let him know it, making tensions on the set very high. DeLuca was stymied in his film making, by not only his lack of cooperation by the Yugoslavian people, but by a lack of local resources and disrespectful actors. To say this was a troubled shoot is putting it mildly.

But at least you got Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum who would rocket to fame one year later (and marry) in The Fly. Michael Richards would be a household name in 1989 for his Seinfeld character of Cosmo Kramer, and Carol Kane’s roles in Princess Bride and Scrooged would be indelible.