Sometimes, there's comfort to be found in the disposable. That loaded word -- disposable -- is one that always comes to my mind when talking about the Hotel Transylvania films, but I mean it in an affectionate way. How else to describe an animated series starring Adam Sandler as a Count Dracula whose trademark phrase is "Bleh blehbleh"?
Disposable, however, need not mean indifferent or lazy, and the incidental but plentiful pleasures of this series suggest that the filmmakers understand these movies' basic appeal: While the characterizations and general storytelling are not particularly noteworthy, the visual gags and comic marginalia charm and even surprise. For all that, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is a bit busier and more elaborate than the series' previous two iterations. To help bring her father out of a spell of gloom, Drac's daughter (voiced by Selena Gomez) organizes an all-monster Atlantic cruise. Once on board the giant luxury ocean liner, the lovesick Drac falls for the ship's acrobatic, beautiful and relentlessly cheery captain Ericka (voiced by Kathryn Hahn), who immediately seems to reciprocate. But it's soon revealed that she is secretly the great-granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing himself, determined to do what her famous forebear could not and wipe out Dracula and his kind forever.
The conceit of a luxury cruise for monsters allows director Genndy Tartakovsky to go for broke when it comes to gaudy spectacle. And we in the audience can actually sense this freedom -- the film conveys it through the creativity of the monster designs and the demented energy with which they move.