I have two thoughts after seeing Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. First: Oh my gosh I need to go on a cruise. Because this was a monster cruise, it’s not like there was a ton of gorgeous island scenery or stunning ocean views to tempt me and yet I’m still totally jealous and want to go on my own cruise now. Royal Caribbean or somebody totally missed an amazing product placement opportunity here. And as for my second thought? Well, check out my movie review to find out.
I’m guessing you’re familiar with the Hotel Transylvania franchise, or you wouldn’t be interested in seeing the third one, but here’s a quick recap just in case. In the first movie we meet Count Dracula, who’s running a hotel for monsters, which is a safe space where he and his monster friends can safely avoid humans. A human named Johnny finds his way into the hotel, where he meets Dracula’s daughter Mavis and they fall in love. In monster-speak, they “zing.”
Ultimately, Drac realizes humans aren’t so bad and—yay!—there’s a happy ending. In Hotel Transylvania 2, Johnny and Mavis get married and have a son. The whole movie revolves around whether little Dennis is a human or a monster. The climax is a terrifying scene involving Drac’s father, whose very scary bat-creature minion kidnaps and threats to kill Dennis before Grandpa comes around to the humans-are-okay side and the creepy bat-creature and his friends are beaten and banished. Good times.
My parents bought the first one for my daughter and she saw it when she was about four, I was a little iffy about that because, well, blood-sucking vampires, zombies, skeletons, and other monsters… you know? But my daughter liked it. So when the second one came out, I organized an event with my local moms’ group to go see it at a second-run movie theater that served dinner, and we made an evening of it. HUGE mistake.
The storyline was went over the kids’ heads and the end was terrifying. Now, when my daughter finds a movie scary, she likes to watch it over and over to try understand it and after repeated viewings, Hotel Transylvania 2 is also now part of her regular rotation. Since she likes the franchise, I knew she’d ask to see the third movie as soon as the marketing started appearing in theaters. We’d seen a couple previews for it and it looked okay, so I said we could go.
Mavis surprises Dracula and friends with a vacation. Sounds fun, right? Not necessarily compelling theater, but it’s summer and an excuse to be inside in the air conditioning, so what’s the harm. But then two days before the movie, I finally saw a longer trailer and learned that the movie is all about a descendant of Van Helsing trying to kill Dracula during the cruise. Awesome.
It felt like it was too late to back out now (I’m a lazy parent and this was the path of least resistance), so we went anyway. This leads me to my second thought: Why in the world did they make this movie? In Hotel Transylvania we met a lot of fun and funny characters and in the second movie, we got to meet the adorable Dennis. In this third movie, it felt like everyone except Dracula and Mavis was reduced to cameo appearances and the writers were just trying to make sure they squeezed in all your old favorites (including Johnny’s backpack). And while this movie has multiple positive messages, they’re not new to this third film: forgiveness and appreciating diversity were the (very obvious) themes of the first two movies in the franchise. Thank you, Sony Pictures, we get it.
After the movie, I asked my six-year-old what she thought and of course she said, “Awesome!” She said you should have to be “eight-ish and six-ish” to see it. My husband said five or six should be fine because there’s nothing really scary in the movie. However, there is one scene during which Dracula is attacked by axes, arrows, darts, knives, snakes, and fire—all of which is done in a comedic way, but it still might bother some kids to see a favorite character be hurt these ways. And the climax of the movie is a prolonged scene in which almost every character viewers have met over the course of the franchise is in danger, which could be disturbing for some children. When I asked my daughter what was scary, that’s the scene she named; she found it pretty tense. You know from my other reviews how much I love Common Sense Media; their recommendation was seven and up. If your kids scare easily or have a tough time with tense scenes, that’s a pretty solid recommendation. If they’re a little more easygoing and don’t mind cartoonish violence, you could go a little younger.
When I asked my daughter what the best part was, she said, “Well, the best part was the end,” by which she meant the action that took place during the scene end of the movie. However, my husband muttered under his breath, “Yup. The best part was the end.” Sadly, this movie is getting no love from the adults in my house. The first one was cute, but it’s all been downhill from there. Sorry, but there’s just no zing with Hotel Transylvania 3. (All the thumbs up for the two singles and the EP Sony has released, though. Great for a summer dance party!)
PS- The opening scene begins in 1897. At the end of scene, Dracula mentions that it would be weird if maybe one day he got married and had family. Hotel Transylvania begins in 1895 and Mavis has already been born. Ugh.