‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ doesn’t suck but could use more zing


It’s all about the zing.

If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It’s that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life.

In the case of “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it’s possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third offering in the offbeat look at the world of ghouls and monsters doesn’t come close to having the same zing as the first or second offering. It’s fun, and director Genndy Tartakovsky (“The Powerpuff Girls”) knows how to keep the action moving because of all his work in television animation, but the change of approach when dealing with Dracula coupled with the setting switch leaves the production just a little light on zing.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” picks up with the getaway destination for creatures doing booming business. Things are going so well that a break is needed, and the group books passage on the first monster cruise, which will take them from the Bermuda Triangle to the found city of Atlantis. The trip becomes a monster version of “The Love Boat” as Dracula does what he has thought was impossible: He falls in love again. The problem is his new flame, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), is the last in the long line of Van Helsings, who have made it their life’s work to kill Dracula.

The most enjoyable part of the first two films was how every nerve in Dracula’s batty body was stretched to the limit by being a single father and grandfather. In “Hotel Transylvania,” the problem was that a human who had found the spa for the supernatural fell in love with Dracula’s daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez). The follow-up film had Dracula and his buddies trying to bring out the monster in his half-human, half-vampire grandson as a way of keeping Mavis from leaving the hotel.

Seeing Dracula flabbergasted makes for plenty of fun because Sandler has a way of making his voice sound both commanding and confused. It’s not quite the same when his emotional confusion comes from Dracula falling in love with the captain of the cruise ship. This just doesn’t give Sandler the same broad approach to playing flustered that he had in the other two movies.

There’s also something a little disconcerting about the action shifting from the hotel to the ship. In the hotel, Dracula is pulled between his personal and professional problems. Once he leaves the hotel, half the angst is gone.

That being said, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” doesn’t suck. It is a visual splendor, from the fun way the creatures are portrayed to the pacing. Keeping Tartakovsky as director of all three films creates a fluid sense of comedy and look.

Because he has worked on so many different television projects, from “2 Stupid Dogs” to “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” Tartakovsky understands how to handle anything from animated slapstick comedy to action sequences. If you are a fan of Tartakovsky’s “Dexter’s Laboratory,” it will be obvious the inspiration for Ericka comes from the wildly silly and charmingly annoying character of Dee Dee.

The best examples of both can be seen in the sequences dealing with the werewolf couple of Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and Wanda (Molly Shannon). The parents of a continuously growing pack is a sight gag that always works, plus it features the most energy of any of the monstrous characters. The fact the world-weary couple gets a break from their children is both funny and a nice wink to the parents in the audience.

It would have been nice if “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” had the same zing as past efforts. But, there’s never a love as zing-filled as the first, and it happening a second time is amazing. The third time is not quite the charmer as the others, but still offers enough laughs to keep kids plus their mummys and daddies entertained.



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