More moviegoers than ever seem to be down on Adam Sandler the last few years, particularly after this summer’s abysmal “Pixels.” For the haters out there, you could see where Sandler reprising his role as a cartoon Dracula in “Hotel Transylvania 2” might just be the perfect metaphor: Yep, there he goes again, evilly sucking the lifeblood out of decent entertainment. Now come on, let’s grab the torches!
We’re not quite so inclined to bash the guy. Has Sandler’s inanity been missing the mark for a while? Absolutely. But even his duds can be good for a few guilty-pleasure laughs, and they tend to be conceived with benign family themes in mind. If we want to lambaste someone for making cynical, condescending assumptions about our appetite for the lowbrow, it probably should be the studio execs greenlighting Sandler’s movies.
The first “Transylvania” monster mash was one of Sandler’s better recent efforts, a likable 3-D animated trifle with peevish hotelier Drac fretting about his adolescent daughter’s relationship with a human. This time, goth ’n’ groovy lovebirds Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) get married and have a little monster of their own, a sunny, red-haired, thoroughly normal tyke named Dennis. Suddenly, Dracula has new reason to worry. Will the kid ever get fangs? If Dennis doesn’t exhibit a batty streak soon, he’ll drive poor Vampa just that. What’s worse, overprotective Mavis has started thinking it might be a good idea to go live near her in-laws (underutilized Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman).
While Mavis head offs with Jonathan to get a preliminary feel for his California hometown, Dracula whisks his grandson off to his old character-building summer camp. Along the way, there’s more zaniness with the rest of the Transylvania gang — Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), etc. But returning director Genndy Tartakovsky again puts his iconic creature-feature lineup to middling use. (Ugh, the cutaway gags.) Meanwhile, a cameo by Mel Brooks as Dracula’s fang-dentured pop is a fun idea that fizzles.
What’s genuinely funny is a sink-or-swim (splat-or-soar?) scene with Dracula blithely dropping Dennis from a vertiginous tower and waiting for genetics to kick in. Little else in the story has an Addams-esque quality to match. Ironically, the movie can be a lot like the cuddly-monster preschool show that Drac’s grandson blasphemously adores — safe, predictable, and tame to a fault.