Hotel Transylvania 2 starts with the wedding of human Johnny and vampire Mavis (Andy Samberg and Selena Gomez). Cut to a year later, and the two are expecting a child. Dracula (Adam Sandler) is looking forward to raising their kid as a monster, but it starting to look like little Dennis might be a human. Afraid that Mavis might move away to keep Dennis safe, Dracula hatches a plan to bring out the monster in the kid. While Johnny and Mavis visit California, Dracula gets his friends together to teach Dennis the ways of the monster.
Most of the film is built on showing how different these monsters are now. Dracula believes that there is a certain way to be a monster, ignoring the fact that the entire world seems to have completely changed around him. There are a lot of jokes about how he and his friends aren't actually very good monsters anymore. Much of the second act is built on these hijinks, Dracula's buddies just not as into scaring and killing people as much as they used to. It's a gentrified world, and these monsters are all too happy to take part in it.
This section of the film is mildly interesting, but it also showcases the film's biggest weaknesses. A lot of these gags aren't very well constructed, and the film drifts between them at a random clip. It doesn't always feel like the film is headed somewhere, the movie too content with randomness. The film does eventually land on something, but that doesn't entirely negate just how much of a mess the first half is. At one point, with a scene having nowhere to go, the film launches into a breakdancing sequence. That’s pretty dire.
But when it does come together, it stumps for something really worthy. Suddenly, the film becomes a parable for changing attitudes about the other. It uses the differences between humans and monsters as a surprisingly potent metaphor for differences in race and orientation. It doesn't entirely hold together, but there is something endearing in the film's attempt to bring these issues to light. It gets clever as it depicts benign discrimination, how even apparent acceptance can still come from a place of ignorance and prejudice.
This all comes together is a mostly slick animated package. The only bothersome thing about the animation is the constant flouting of the Sony brand. But the monster designs are fun and some of the sequences feature a lot of interesting visual elements. The voice cast is still pretty okay. Adam Sandler does seem to be enjoying putting on a vampire voice. Andy Samberg's goofball delivery really helps paint a picture of who Johnny is. On the sidelines are the likes of Steve Buscemi, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally, who all provide plenty of personality to these characters.
There's a little too much going on in Hotel Transylvania 2. It feels like there are different sensibilities at play, and the movie, for all of its good heartedness, doesn’t entirely come together. But it is hard to dismiss its pleasures as well. This is a film that eventually grows into something more. It eventually lets go of the randomness for long enough to really hit at something important in this modern age. It speaks directly to a new generation of children who aren’t as afraid of differences as other generations might be. It speaks of the need to let go of the baggage of previous generations, to finally embrace whatever weirdness people might possess. Then again, it ends in a dance sequence. It can’t all work