The pack steps back while Drac steps up.
Long before starting his hotel or getting hitched, Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) repeatedly thwarted so-called monster hunter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) — a simple enough task for Drac but mostly an annoyance. Centuries later, Mavis (Selena Gomez) notices her dad out of sorts and plans a surprise vacation: a family and friends monster cruise! While Drac is determined to play along and have fun for his daughter’s sake, the truth is he’s lonely… and the ship’s Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) might be more of an interest to the vampire than just another delicious neck.
Director Genndy Tartakovsky originally intended to pass on the third installment of this Sony Pictures Animation franchise after building it with the first two. While never as fully realized as any Disney-Pixar features, the first two films are on par with Illumination films, neither too deep nor too zany — comfortable, which isn’t exactly what you think of about when you’ve got a hotel full of monsters. For what will presumably be the final film of this trilogy, can a fresh perspective over a rehashed fearful-humans plot and an infusion of Looney Toons-inspired zaniness knock the finale out of the park?
With no significant back story or origins to fill in, the sequel is satisfied serving up story between continuous rapid-fire sight gags with our monster pals, but the best news is seeing Drac finally live up to his reputation: King of the Monsters. It’s the balance the original Hotel Transylvania reached for and couldn’t quite hit, but this wouldn’t have worked without the Drac-story leading up to this point. Previously filling in as the obstacle to be overcome and later a pro-monster/human relations advocate in Hotel Transylvania 2, the vampire gets to both save the day and save himself, leaving no one out and tying up every loose end in the most family friendly kind of way.
A word on zinging: yeah, that’s still a thing, and it’s been previously established you only “zing” once… which kind of sucks when you’re an immortal. Can a vampire zing twice? There’s also a bit of role reversal as Mavis comes fully into her own; sure she’s gothic and adorable, but she’s also Dracula’s Daughter — yup, with a capital ‘D.’ And just at the moment non-monster zen-surfer Johnny (Andy Samberg) looks to get pushed into the background, he proves he’s more than just the son-in-law, and it’s appropriately epic. While less time is spent on individual fan favorites, everyone gets their moments, even the Wolf family.
All in all, it’s the best of the series. Maybe Universal’s now-defunct Dark Universe should have just acquired Sony Pictures Animation and called it a night.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is rated PG for some action, rude humor, and tentacle mayhem.
Four skull recommendation out of four