Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review: This third installment cruises its way to a franchise best.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review by Andrew Gaudion.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review
Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review

The Hotel Transylvania franchise may not have ever been graced with the critical acclaim of Pixar, or the box-office billions of Despicable Me and its Minions, but that hasn’t stopped them from having a charm all their own. The first two installments aren’t exactly classics of the genre, but they more than demonstrate Genndy Tartakovsky’s visual imagination and flare. The man behind Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack has a very distinct style, one that does echo the likes of Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbara and classic MGM cartoons from the 60’s (it should come as no surprise that a stalled Popeye feature has been a passion project of his). With the third installment in the Transylvania franchise, Tartakovsky’s skills as an animation director are evident once again, allowing for this third installment to cruise its way to a franchise best.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is in need of a break from running the Hotel Transylvania, a hotel specifically for monsters of all kinds, which is why his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) arranges for the whole gang to go on a vacation aboard a cruise ship. There, Drac begins to fall for the charms of the ship’s Captain, Erica (Kathryn Haan). But little does he know that Erica is the Great Granddaughter of one Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), and both are out to settle a generations-old rivalry once and for all.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review

The plot is pretty threadbare for the most part, as it is largely used as an excuse to move the action away from the hotel to expand the visual gags and monster-focused slapstick. Before people complain about a vampire going on a cruise, don’t worry, that’s just classic poster misdirection. They only ever go out at night to enjoy what the cruise ship has to offer. This is a franchise that has taken a few liberties with monster lore, but for the most part it stays respectful to the broad strokes of characteristics and abilities we expect from the various ghouls, goblins and demonic beings we see on screen here.

The change in location allows for the film to play to Tartakovsky’s strength of constructing kinetic and colourful action sequences, all driven to the tempo of a manic Looney Tunes energy. The animation may not be all that sophisticated but a lot of the character and background designs have an appealing factor to them, largely down to the old-fashioned approach, proving to be pleasingly imaginative and often very funny.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review
Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review

The main issue with these movies is there is a little too much of a tendency to let the plot fall away for pop music montages. It is in these moments that the film ends up feeling like it offers nothing more beyond behind standard kid-friendly affair, with only some of the visual wit remaining. These moments are also rather dragged out, making these sequences to feel more like a means of padding out the film’s runtime rather than actually putting that much emphasis on entertainment value.

The voice cast remains engaging. Those who can’t stand the Adam Sandler gang in live action movies probably find these films rather in-offensive as Sandler and his pals (including regular collaborators Kevin James and David Spade) largely stick to Tartakovsky’s script, even if Sandler still manages to find some room to dispel some of his trademark gibberish. In terms of franchise newcomers, Haan is a fun addition to the cast, even if her character arc is very predictable, but the stand-out has to be Chris Parnell as the various Fish Men who work aboard the cruise ship, proving to often be the source of the funniest lines and gags throughout the film.

Related: Hotel Transylvania 2 review

Through Tartakovsky’s style and creativity, Hotel Transylvania 3 stands as the strongest of the franchise, even if it still struggles to hit into a gear that moves it beyond just being serviceable for families of all ages to enjoy. That’s all well and good, but there is no denying the fact that you feel as if Tartakovsky is holding back. We’ve seen he can do so much more on TV, but he’s yet to fully realise that on the big screen, and you can’t help but wonder what would happen if he were to just take that extra push. In spite of this, as it stands, this sequel is undeniably fun, brightly animated and has enough of a unique style to stand as an animated offering well worth taking the family to.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation review by Andrew Gaudio, July 2018.

Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation is released in UK cinemas on Friday 27th July 2018.

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation