Review – Not Enough Bite (“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”)

In almost all animated films, part three of a series means only one thing: road trip! Shrek, Despicable Me, Madagascar, etc., all have followed this same pattern and so has this movie franchise. Looks like Dracula & family are taking a vacation aboard a luxury cruise liner. Hey, what could possibly go wrong?


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In a prologue we meet fearless monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) whose mission in life is to destroy all monsters, especially Dracula (Adam Sandler), because… reasons. Fast-forward to today and Drac is depressed and lonely following a wedding at his exclusive hotel for monsters. Seems he misses “the ‘zing'” (that’s monster-speak for ‘falling in love’). He even tries the phone app, ZINGR, to find a mate, but it’s no use. To remedy his malady, his loving vampire daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), decides what her daddy needs is a vacation!

Rounding up all his friends, they all check on board the gigantic cruise ship Legacy, run by the Betty Boop-ish captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). Looks like Frankenstein monster Franky (Kevin James), his wife (Fran Drescher), werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), invisible man Griffin (David Spade), Count Vlad (Mel Brooks), Murray the mummy (Keegan Michael-Key), and Mavis’ human husband, Johnny (Andy Samberg), are all having a blast, except Drac…  until he is smitten by ‘the zing’ with Ericka. Thinking she shares the same feelings for him, Dracula is now ready to party and enjoy himself.

BUT! What nobody knows is that sweet, athletic, and innocent Ericka is actually the great grand-daughter of Abraham Van Helsing, and wants all these monsters on board the ship DEAD! Bwahahahaha! As the ship sails on to points of interest, and the monsters get into crazy situations and hijinks, Ericka and great grand-pops devise their demise–targeting Dracula first, naturally. It all comes down to a mega-dance party on the lost island of Atlantis (which is now a gigantic casino, of course!) and a singing, monstrous Kraken (Joe Jonas). Will Van Helsing’s ultimate plan of doom work? Will Dracula find love in all the wrong places? And what’s even scarier, will there be a part four??

Directed again by Genndy Tartakovsky, and written by Tartakovsky and Michael McCullers (The Boss Baby), this third film wasn’t even supposed to have been made. Tartakovsky himself said, “Two is enough”. But Sony Pictures wanted a third and, well, you have this meh threequel that isn’t anywhere as good as parts one or two. Looks like he was right, huh? Chock-filled with plot holes, this A-typical ‘fish-out-of-water’ plus revenge story is recycled at best. Yes, many of the jokes and sight gags are very funny (the chupacabra gag is hilarious), but the whole love story angle is weak and forced, not to mention that lame ending!

The kiddies will enjoy the bright, colorful lunacy, the whiz-bang editing, and the silly antics of these goofy monsters who are anything but terrifying. Give credit to the V/O team of actors; they are excellent and really do justice to the movie, plus the overall message of ‘loving your enemies’ (very Biblical), is one that is so relevant and positive in today’s turbulent times. I suppose the burning question is: will there be a part four? By the ending of the movie I can categorically state, “Oh, you betcha!

 
MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967)

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Rankin-Bass, the folks that gave us all those wonderful stop-motion animated Christmas TV specials like Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa is Comin’ to Town made a rare excursion into motion pictures with this great family musical/comedy.

The iconic Boris Karloff voices the character of Baron Boris Von Frankenstein, giving this kids movie a touch of class to the overall craziness which deals with the baron’s nerdy nephew, a drugstore assistant named Felix Flankin (Allen Swift, who also voiced everyone else in the cast. That’s 15 others!). One day, Felix gets an unusual invitation to attend a special party thrown by his uncle on his secluded island.

Also invited are the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, and a hodge-podge of other classic monsters. Definitely NOT invited is IT (no, not Pennywise) who turns out to be (spoiler alert!) King Kong! Thrown into the mix are the doctor’s gorgeous (by puppet standards, I guess) secretary Francesca (Gale Garnett) and the loud-mouthed mate of Frankenstein’s creature, voiced by the one and only Phyllis Diller!

It seems the Baron has decided to step down as leader of the Monster Council and elect a new head-honcho, but who will it be? In-fighting and back-stabbing among the others vying for position (think Survivor, only with monsters!) starts up and only Francesca knows who the true successor will be… but where does her loyalties lie? Not to mention the good baron is hiding a secret from the others–a secret that could spell disaster that, well, I better not give too much away. Suffice to say, there IS a happy ending, albeit a very strange one; you’ll just have to rent/stream it to see what I mean.

The music and songs in this movie are just like the Christmas themed TV specials: catchy and toe-tapping, with a few sad blues numbers thrown in for some pathos (and the adults watching) It’s silly, broad, corny, and written by newbie Len Korobkin, Mad Magazine’s Harvey Kurtzman, and Arthur Rankin, Jr., so the humor’s very sophomoric. Still, it does has its moments and for a rainy afternoon or a kids Halloween party, it’s perfect.

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