‘Hotel 2′ Doubles Down on Ghoulish Fun

hotel-transylvania-2-reviewAdmit it, dads. Adam Sandler’s “Hotel Transylvania” caught you by surprise.

Sandler’s recent films have wavered from mediocre to unwatchable. And that’s being kind. So who expected the charming antics found in 2012′s “Hotel,” or how snugly he fit as the voice of a proud vampire pappy?

Can Sandler repeat himself? “Hotel Transylvania 2″ proves he can, give or take a few less than stellar gags. The sequel serves up a smart message about accepting our differences and the power of family. To be fair, the film franchise should be cutting royalty checks to the heirs of the “Addams Family” sitcom. The new film borrows liberally from that show’s comic template, but often to fine comic effect.

Little Mavis (Selena Gomez, delightful) is all grown up and about to marry Johnny (Andy Samberg). The marriage quickly establishes the film’s humorous blueprint. Lightning fast visual gags, a few horror puns and the genuine bond between Drac (Sandler) and his daughter. Father and son even dance on the ceiling as part of the festivities.

It’s a smart sight gag, the first of many.

Eventually, Mavis and Johnny welcome a baby boy, but grandpa is worried the son is all too human, like his father. Will the fiery headed lad sprout fangs? Or is he … ugh … normal?

The sequel’s plot feels episodic, as is the curse of many franchise extenders. Still, the pace is lively, the jokes clever and the sentiment never wavers. You’d think a movie about monsters would bow to cynicism, but even the ugliest creatures here are more sweet and sour.

Fine vocal performances by Steve Buscemi, Kevin James and David Spade add to the merriment. Yes, a potty joke or two is thrown in, but they feel less desperate than usual. Plenty of the jokes take aim at parents, and they hit more often than they miss.

By the time Mel Brooks shows up as an “old school” vampire who thinks humans are for snacking, not marrying, it’s clear the film’s bigger message about embracing our differences is genuine and well-earned.

Parents can rest assure that “Hotel Transylvania 2″ won’t be the punishing experience the summer smash “Minions” proved to be. It might just make you forgive Sandler for “Jack and Jill.” And “Just Go with It.” And “Pixels.” Maybe a third “Hotel” can do all of that.

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