Review: Dracula's road trip makes 'Hotel Transylvania 2' a sweet but simple ride

Katie Walsh

There's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to movies for kids. This summer has seen the likes of the emotional "Inside Out" and the brilliant claymation film "Shaun the Sheep." But with the abundance of offerings on hand, not everything is going to reach those heights. The sequel "Hotel Transylvania 2" is cute and diverting enough, with a heartfelt family message, and unique style, but it probably won't be joining the pantheon of animated classics.

Adam Sandler voices Dracula, the proprietor of the titular hotel, and of course, he has Kevin James along to voice trusty sidekick Frankenstein. The film opens with the wedding of Dracula's daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) to goofball human Jonathan (Andy Samberg). This vampire-human union is at the crux of the tension in the story, particularly the fruit of that union, little Dennis (Asher Blinkoff).

Dracula is obsessed with Dennis being a vampire, though his head of curly red hair doesn't bode well for the moppet. While Mavis struggles with whether Dennis should grow up with humans in California, Papa Drac takes his grandchild for a rollicking road trip to learn how to be a monster. Unfortunately, it seems these monsters have lost their mojo, tamed by the creature comforts at the hotel, softened by middle age and domesticity.

The animation is done in director Genndy Tartakovsky's unmistakable style, as seen in the series "Samurai Jack" and "Dexter's Laboratory." The film is clearly a labor of love and family affair for co-writer Sandler, whose daughter Sadie voices the ferociously cute werewolf pup Winnie. He's brought his whole crew along too: co-writer Robert Smigel provides a voice, as do Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, and even Dana Carvey, as an overly cautious vampire camp counselor. Legendary Mel Brooks even offers his voice to the character of Vlad, Dracula's father, and he steals the show.

Ultimately, the film is about the strength of family, and accepting your loved ones for who they are — be they monsters or not. It's a sweet message, but the film doesn't reach the emotional depths or creative genius that other kids' films have displayed. The jokes are serviceable, but don't hit that sweet spot where the adults in attendance can enjoy the film as much as the kids. It's a cute enough diversion, but it doesn't really amount to much more than Saturday morning cartoons.



2 stars out of 4

Rated PG for some scary images, action and rude humor.

Cast: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Andy Samberg

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes