CG-animated kid’s films are a hugely expensive undertaking, and a massive risk for the studios involved. So when one catches the imagination in the way the first Hotel Transylvania did, it’s little wonder Sony Pictures will treat the series as an ongoing safe bet. After all, that’s how you subsidise the rest of your roster when you don’t have quite the clout of a Disney - and it’s why DreamWorks are now on their fifth Shrek film, with two spin-offs, eight shorts, two TV specials and a couple of television series rounding out the franchise. The question isn’t whether to do more, but wither the inspiration to extend the narrative will come from.
For Hotel Transylvania 3, director and co-writer Genndy Tartakovsky has packed his regular characters off on their holidays. Now that might seem insane, as after all the regular characters are already running a hotel, so what’s the big deal with sticking them all on a cruise ship instead? The answer’s simple; it allows Tartakovsky to remove his characters from their comfort zone, while keeping his rather young audience firmly in their own. In fact, the benefits are twofold, because one of the main attractions of the CG animation business, is in seeing new worlds being created on the screen; a holiday cruise is the perfect excuse for a sort of ocean-going road trip, complete with as many new destinations as the budget can afford.
Does it work, then? Yes, totally. The Hotel Transylvania films have never been as much about narrative as Pixar’s, rather being gag-fests with a thin plot-structure to hang the jokes on. And that’s what you get here; there’s a bit of a story about Dracula’s daughter Mavis sending him - and all his friends - on vacation, after she suspects him of overdoing things, only for it to turn out that the cruise they end up taking is being captained by Van Helsing’s great-granddaughter. So there’s your peril, and there’s your transport between one comedy and/or dance routine and the next.
And it’s all very, very funny - for every gag that misses its mark, there are about three that hit it squarely in the face (and the addition of the Count’s grandson’s pet puppy is a stroke of inspiration) - but equally slight. The whole thing hinges on a particularly obvious but nevertheless quite satisfying love story, and the music and visuals are designed to keep even the giddiest small person firmly engaged. If you’re an Adam Sandler-phobe, you might find the voice work irritating (the rest of the cast is made up of Sandler-philes, pretty much - and Mel Brooks) but to be honest, if you didn’t know it was him you wouldn’t know it was him.
There’s the usual smorgasbord of extras kid’s films serve up these days, including the short film that introduced the aforementioned puppy. This isn’t the finest Hotel Transylvania, but it’s considerably better than adequate and will no doubt turn up in a lot of Christmas stockings this year. It won’t disappoint.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: GENNDY TARTAKOVSKY / SCREENPLAY: GENNDY TARTAKOVSKY, MICHAEL McCULLERS / STARRING: ADAM SANDLER, ANDY SAMBERG, SELENA GOMEZ, KEVIN JAMES, DAVID SPADE, STEVE BUSCEMI, KATHRYN HAHN, FRAN DRESCHER, MEL BROOKS / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 3RD