There's about one dud joke for every two belly laughs in desperate-to-please kiddy horror-comedy Hotel Transylvania 2, a cute monster-clan adventure whose all-over-the-map sense of humor accommodates everything from a Peter Lorre–voiced GPS to a breakdancing Dracula (voiced by a surprisingly endearing Adam Sandler). But even Sandler and co-writer Robert Smigel's worst gags are relatively painless thanks to the comic sensitivity of director Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack).
That's no small feat given that Sandler and Smigel's default sensibility is consistently broad and shticky. Viewers shouldn't expect sophisticated humor from a comedy that follows Dracula as he struggles to accept that his grandson Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) might not be a monster like him, but rather a human mortal. But cartoon buffs and monster fans of all ages can appreciate Tartakovsky's well-timed jokes, like when Dracula can't figure out how to hold his smartphone while talking to vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) with a video-chat app.
Sandler and Smigel offer several genuinely funny ideas, like a kids show that insists diabetes is the scariest monster of all and a European fruit snack called Fruit by the Meter. But Tartakovsky is the savior, as is evident in even a short-but-sweet introductory scene where Drac and Mavis turn into bats and play hide-and-seek in a cloud-filled blue sky. Tarkovsky's well-turned, Chuck Jones–inspired cartoon choreography turns an otherwise pedestrian routine into a cute little lark.