At least, give “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” this much: It changes its location, quite drastically.
By the time a franchise is hitting its third chapter, it had better have something new to offer viewers, even its most loyal fans. It’s easier than ever these days to sniff out something that was created merely as a cash cow, with nary a thought given to the need for actual creativity.
Though it doesn’t maintain steam all the way, the animated “Hotel Transylvania 3” does a clever change-up of the Dracula legend early on. The count (voiced again by Adam Sandler) gets a gift from his daughter (fellow returnee Selena Gomez) – a sea cruise intended to cheer up the vampire, who expectedly has reservations about spending much time in sunlight.
However, most of those fears evaporate when he meets the vessel’s appealing captain (Kathryn Hahn), who harbors a pretty big secret: She’s the great-granddaughter of Van Helsing, Dracula’s legendary nemesis, and she has big plans to eliminate Granddad’s enemy once and for all.
Especially for those long-steeped in Dracula lore, that’s a pretty neat premise … but “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” eventually settles into the standard and predictable, owing in part to the need to service characters whose traditions were established the first two times around. You just know the whole monstrous crew will be along for the trip, so Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and David Spade also are among those heard again.
Mind you, this reaction to “Hotel Transylvania 3” is coming from someone over the age of 10, which isn’t the target audience here. (In fact, that might be pushing it: Let’s back up and make that “over the age of 7.”)
The most successful makers of cartoon features these days know to include content that will tickle the funny bones of adults, too. After all, in the majority of cases, they have to know that older patrons will be accompanying the kids to the theater … so it only makes sense to go for mass appeal. Just ask the gang at Disney-Pixar, who have scored again this summer with “Incredibles 2.”
“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” has a promising start with its fresh locale, but in the end, it’s pretty much the same-old same-old. Or, given that it’s largely about Count Dracula, the same-really-old.