Friday, July 13, 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation — A monstrous good time

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) • View trailer 
Four stars. Rated PG, for mild rude humor

By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 7.13.18

The jokes never get old.

Many of the sight gags and laugh lines in this new outing are recycled from the two previous films, but we can’t complain when the result remains so entertaining. It has long been fun to exploit the absurdity of classic monsters, going all the way back to 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

To his surprise, Dracula falls head-over-heels in love with cruise ship captain Ericka,
little realizing that he needs to know a lot more about her heritage.
This is director Genndy Tartakovsky’s third crack at this series’ fast-paced humor in a jugular vein, and he has the formula down pat: He and co-writer Michael McCullers divide this new adventure into distinct chapters, each of which presents unique opportunities for hilarity.

While, at the same time, each enhances the (mild) suspense of the story’s core plot.

A brief prologue mines Bram Stoker territory, by depicting the long-running battle between the resourceful Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and various members of the Van Helsing clan, all of whom have devoted their lives to eradicating monsters. But as we move past the 19th and 20th centuries, and into modern times, all monsters have become sheltered beneath Dracula’s protective cape — as the two previous films have established — where they can safely enjoy themselves in his Hotel Transylvania.

On top of which, Dracula always has been able to make short work of the various Van Helsings, including the most recent, and most persistent: Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan).

Happily ensconced in his hotel, Dracula’s busy schedule has compromised his ability to spend time with vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), her gonzo-mellow human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg), and their precocious 5-year-old son Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). The latter, in turn, can’t stand to be parted from his elephant-sized puppy, Tinkles (who, fortunately, doesn’t live down to his name).

Worried that her father is wearing himself thin, and is unable to spend quality time with friends and family, Mavis secretly books a vacation for the entire gang — Drac’s Pack — on a luxury monster cruise ship. Although initially unimpressed by the notion of spending time on a massive “hotel on the water,” Dracula comes around when he unexpectedly “zings” — the monster equivalent of love at first sight — with the ship’s captain, the dimple-chinned Ericka (Kathryn Hahn).

Little do Dracula and his friends know, however, that Ericka is a Van Helsing, and the cruise actually is an elaborate trap designed to destroy all monsters. Finally. Forever.

The nonstop sight gags aside, much of the humor derives from the enthusiasm with which the returning voice talents handle their characters. Kevin James is a hoot as the meek and put-upon Frankenstein’s Monster, who has an unfortunate habit of gambling with his body parts: much to the long-suffering annoyance of his disapproving wife, Eunice (Fran Drescher).

Werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon) have just had yet another litter, making them the exhausted parents of 70 snarling little fur balls. Encountering the cruise ship’s “daycare center” is beyond their comprehension … and their wildest dreams of peace and quiet.

Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) still is the hippest cat in the pack, and David Spade continues to grumble as the constantly jostled, bumped and bashed Invisible Man. (An occupational hazard, when nobody can see him.)

Various incidental monsters wander along the fringes, including a Cerberus with multiple urbane heads; an abominable snowman so immense, that we never see more than one foot and part of a leg; a creative blob who manufactures his own family; and even the ambulatory, antenna’d, disembodied brains from 1958’s cult classic, Fiend Without a Face.

Then there’s Dracula’s ancient father, Vlad, given impudent sass by the always hilarious Mel Brooks. Vlad’s determination to let it all hang out (literally) in a teeny-tiny pair of swim trunks — much to the delight of three old crone witches — is the apogee of it’s-so-embarrassing-you-laugh-with-fingers-over-your-eyes humor.

That’s typical of the creativity at work here. Tartakovsky, McCullers and editor Joyce Arrastia maintain a crisp pace — and keep us amused and entertained — by alternating sequences large and small. Getting to the cruise ship involves a plane flight on Gremlin Air, where the little monsters who make your flight go wrong have been put in charge: an uproariously harrowing experience with the manic, rat-a-tat pacing of classic Warner Bros. cartoons.

Other extended sequences — cleverly dependant more on visuals, than dialogue — include an underwater volcano, the Vegas-style opulence of the Lost City of Atlantis, and a tango-styled dance through a bunch of lethal booby traps. The pace simply doesn’t let up, all the way to the funniest — and most unlikely — DJ battle you’ll ever experience.

At the same time, Tartakovsky also gets chuckles from something as quick and simple as Drac and the gang flop-flapping their flippers across the ship’s deck, as they prepare for a scuba excursion.

And this film definitely has the best-ever take on the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

There’s also enough emotional content — and a gentle message of inclusiveness — to make us care about the outcome: Silly as everything is, we want it to all work out.

The animation style is more “fluid,” the characters less rigorously defined, than what we expect from Pixar or Blue Sky. They can be “pushed” into overstated expressions and positions: the side-splitting cartoon insanity of Tex Avery, rather than the softer, gentler realm of classic Disney shorts. This better suits Tartakovsky’s vision, which is further complemented by Mark Mothersbaugh’s equally frantic orchestral score.

2015’s second outing was a bit of a letdown, but Tartakovsky obviously spent the past three years putting more thought into this installment. Summer Vacation is every bit as funny and entertaining as 2012’s debut entry. If all concerned can maintain this inventive energy, Hotel Transylvania always will have eager visitors.

No comments:

Post a Comment