It’s easy to dismiss Adam Sandler films these days, and Sandler has certainly done his part to earn derision. It’s worth pointing out that most of Sandler’s films come from his Happy Madison production house, which has given Sandler more range to be lazy. While Hotel Transylvania 2 includes Sandler as lead voice and a co-writer, along with many of his frequently used friends as his co-stars here, it’s worth noting that the film is not a Happy Madison production. Instead, it comes from Sony Pictures Animation, and maybe because it’s not quite an in-house production for Sandler, the film includes more jokes and gags than a typical Sandler film. Some of them even work.
That’s not to say that the Hotel Transylvania series includes anything on the cutting edge of the animated film market. The film is perfectly content to just be silly. Like the previous film, Hotel Transylvania 2 focuses on Dracula (Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), her human love interest Jonathan (Andy Samberg), and various monster friends. Once again, the story focuses on the clashing of monsters and humans culturally, with Dracula’s parental meddling being the source of most of the film’s drama. This time around, Mavis and Jonathan have married and had a son named Dennis, and Dracula is trying to prove that the boy is a vampire before his fifth birthday.
To its credit, Hotel Transylvania 2 is a funnier film than its predecessor. The film is loaded with side gags, like a monster wedding cake that screams when it’s cut or Mavis’ unadulterated delight when she first enters a human convenience store. Little Dennis has a media obsession or two, like many kids; in his case, it’s a kids’ show with Sesame Street-esque monsters, which provoke Dracula’s unrelenting disdain.
If Hotel Transylvania 2 was simply a non-stop laugh factory, it would be a fun movie. But like its predecessor, the film also tries to insert a message about the need for Dracula to accept someone he loves (in this case, Dennis) that’s more annoying than entertaining or educational. The film adds to that with Mavis having her own overprotective parenting style, which the film approaches in a way that’s lazier than it could have been. The story could point out that Mavis’ treatment of Dennis is ironic considering how she was raised, but that would require Mavis to be an active character. Instead, the film is focused squarely on Dracula, who is made to learn his lesson, but also gets what he ultimately wants.
The film also comes to an end with a surprising speed, considering the time it takes indulging in gags and such. The climax isn’t just quick, though; it’s surprisingly violent, considering how tame the violence is throughout the rest of both films, and it moves quickly into the dance-party ending that’s standard for any computer-generated non-Pixar animated film. For this film’s primary audience, that’s okay. Director Genndy Tartakovsky also has enough experience with crazy animation styles to make something of these moments. It helps make the film better than most of Sandler’s other work, but it’s not enough to make the film stand out from other animated films.