"Hotel Transylvania 2" Slackly Rehashes Original

Sony Pictures Animation’s “Hotel Transylvania” was quietly one of 2012’s biggest success stories, outgrossing major hits like “Life Of Pi” and “21 Jump Street” and going on to become an October staple for families. It was also Adam Sandler’s only non-“Grown-Ups” smash of the past decade, suggesting that the under-10 set is the only demographic not entirely burnt out on the comedian.

No stranger to immature fan bases, Sandler has scooped up that ball and run with it, first with this summer’s horrendous “Pixels” (another quiet box office success) and now “Hotel Transylvania 2,” which he co-wrote with his old “Saturday Night Live” accomplice Robert Smigel.

It’s the kind of sequel that will find some wondering if their projectionist accidentally hit play on the original. Those viewers would be forgiven. Where the first “Hotel Transylvania” appropriated classic movie monsters to deliver undercooked lessons about love and acceptance, the sequel does exactly the same thing, almost note for note, offering a handful of fun sight gags and absolutely nothing else that its predecessor didn’t already do.

Sandler once again voices Dracula, vampiric proprietor of Hotel Transylvania and father to Mavis (Selena Gomez). Mavis has just married her human flame from the first film, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), and the two soon have a half-human, half-vampire baby, Dennis. Drac’s reluctant acceptance of Jonathan doesn’t fully extend to Dennis and he decides to do anything he can to ensure his grandson becomes a full-fledged monster.

The series’ “evil but cute” approach to its characters has been done better in the “Despicable Me” films, but that’s not to say “Hotel 2” is charmless. There are enough silly visual jokes to sustain the movie for much of its first act, and the extra large voice cast (Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Molly Shannon, Keegan-Michael Key, the list goes on and on) isn’t too unwieldy. At first.

But the pic soon becomes a directionless, conflict-free road movie with characters popping in and out erratically and the story idling awkwardly.

There might be enough colors and frenzied dialogue to get younger viewers through, but it’ll bore anyone old enough to know they’re watching the same movie in slightly different packaging. With a joke well that runs dry nearly an hour too early, watches will be checked and previously unwanted popcorn kernels will be rigorously examined.

A short film edit of “Hotel Transylvania 2” could have been fun. As a special edition DVD extra, it might’ve even been great, a nifty companion piece for fans of the original. But as a standalone feature, it makes for a weak 90 minute trip, begging that the series end before it becomes entirely worthless. Director and animator Genndy Tartakovsky has already revealed that he won’t return for a third go-round. Audiences would be wise to stay one step ahead and cancel their reservations for this stay.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★ out of ★★★★★ (Not So Good)

Release Date: September 25, 2015
Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Screenwriter: Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel
Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key, Mel Brooks, Fran Drescher, Dana Carvey, Rob Riggle, Asher Blinkoff
MPAA Rating: PG (for some scary images, action and rude humor)