Hotel Transylvania 3 is the closest we’re going to get to a computer-animated Saturday morning cartoon. Returning for a third, and likely final, tour directing the series, Genndy Tartakovsky once again lives up to our expectations. If Saturday morning cartoons were a visual language, the Hotel Transylvania franchise would be perfectly fluent. Computer animation can sometimes veer toward over-perfection, where every part operates by rigid design, looking all the more realistic, but nothing like real life, as it has been over-designed and programmed. The third entry here gets further away from that than even its predecessors, providing yet another fun outing.
Unseasonable as its release is, the premise has also been adjusted for a summer release. All your favorite monsters are leaving their beloved hotel for a luxury cruise, to lift Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) spirits and to allow bonding time with his daughter Mavis and her newborn from the last film. As a loosely disguised romantic comedy series, love, or the act of “zinging,” remains central to its heart. Lovelorn Dracula may find love once again when he meets the ship’s captain Erica (Kathryn Hahn) and slips into prerequisite Sandler baby talk (which she humorously mis-translates as being Transylvanian). Unbeknownst to the Monsters, Erica is a descendant of their great ne’er-do-well archnemesis Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who remains hidden below deck plotting their demise.
Hotel Transylvania 3 is truly a story about accepting others’ differences. Yes, it’s something we need right now. It will do a good job of lifting your spirits and giving you a nice evening of simple joy. That is its core purpose and construction. It does not always reach the heights of the initial work. It may have more laughs than Hotel Transylvania 2 and certainly has the most vibrant and fluid animation of the bunch. The new sea-bound locations earn a jubilant new aesthetic that pairs greatly with its themes of tolerance and acceptance.
The line on Sandler is all of his modern work is set in tropical spots so he can get away and party with friends in fun places and get paid doing it. So it’s with some irony that his Halloween-centric franchise has shifted into the summer months and is a vacation film. While that is funny in itself, it is also a valid strategy for putting out DVDs during the real holidays. Whether you’re still willing to go see a Sandler picture is your prerogative. This series does prove he’s an adept voice over artist, able to fluctuate and regress into childlike glee right alongside the film’s Saturday morning cartoon stylings. The starry ensemble cast stays right in there with him, and they’re all game for a great magnitude of punch-up lines and diverging narratives.
Where the summer cruise once looked like a sad retirement tour for a divisive franchise, it’s anything but. It may be the end of Tartakovsky’s theatrical animated renaissance, but it’s going out on a nice note. This is a bright and fun family affair that’s worth the time spent. It circles around to the usual musical numbers in a final DJing battle between dark synth and some of the brightest, most obnoxiously happy music set to record (see cursed ‘90s dance tune La Macarena). Anywhere else that would be annoying, but meanwhile, Hotel Transylvania is preaching tenets of love and compassion, and we sit back and think, isn’t this a pleasant thing to have right now.