When in doubt, take the team on tour or holiday. That is the inevitable sign of a flagging franchise when characters must leave the backdrop that accompanied them for the previous instalments in the hopes of finding fresh faces and feature-length antics abroad. Genndy Tartakovsky is sellotaped to the director’s chair for his third and final time, like a lengthy S.A.W. trap. His release is an elevation to producer for the fourth feature. That is either a blessing or a curse, but for his work on Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, he has outdone himself. The bar is pushed higher and higher, not because the ensemble grows frighteningly large but because boats and cruises offer the series a change of pace.
Whether that change of pace is necessary or eventful is entirely up to the audience who will barely care to decipher these characters six years on from their initial conception. It is a miracle that such a large ensemble is still available to offer their voices to such a project. Was Mel Brooks choking for a return to this animated series? Did Steve Buscemi not have something else in the pipeline? Something that was not Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation would have been a delight and blessing for the veteran actors and talents hidden away in this feature. But beyond the cast, the lack of growth for this series is depressing.
No changes to the animation. No changes to the withering setlist of jokes that steered the series to hell and back again the first two times. A bit of backstory is slammed through with record speed and makes little difference to the back and forth at hand. Again, the animation has a vaguely solid quality that will be reminiscent of the character proportions and style of Despicable Me. It is telling to see the same humour and sleek animation as that soulless variety often showcases. Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) shows up and is dealt with promptly, the back and forth between the two vaguely entertaining for the younger audience but still completely underwhelming and poorly developed. Another shot at Bram Stoker, who presumably continues to spin in his grave. Sadly, these are the best parts of Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation which now turns its attention to rehashing old jokes from the previous features and knocking the Universal Monsters series as best it can.
Still, it would be hard to squander this ensemble. Tartakovsky comes close, though. He has been shoved aside for the fresh generation behind the camera in the sequel closing in on audiences like a shark with the scent of blood. Even though the animation is rigidly sleek and firmly colourful, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation has very few jokes that work all that much. Those that do work are of the lowest common denominator, enough to make anyone laugh because of how broad and conventional they are. But the common denominator sells, and it is hard to reduce the appeal of the series down to much else than the action figures that stock the shelves. A shame, too, since this cast can provide so much more than that.