It's hard to make a threequel work.
Once you get to the third film in the series, you have to shake things up a bit, and the results are usually akin to what happens when you shake up a soda can. "The Hangover" went to Thailand. "Rocky" brought in Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. "Star Wars" went the Ewok route. "The Godfather..." uh, let's not even go there.
In comparison to most third movies in a series, you can do a lot worse than "Hotel Transylvania 3: Supper Vacation." But you can also do far, far better. "Toy Story 3" and "Cars 3," this is not.
At least director Genndy Tartakovsky and crew stay away from the formula of the first two films. Instead of going back to the well of Dracula (Adam Sandler) juggling his hotel along with his strained relationship with his daughter (Selena Gomez), the setting ditches the setting entirely and heads to the high seas. Dracula and his flunkies -- appropriately played by Sandler's own flunkies -- on a summer cruise.
Oddly, the likes of Sandler, David Spade, Andy Samberg and Kevin James are funnier in animated form than they are in live-action these days. The voice cast dutifully barks out the rimshot-begging one-liners in reaction to horror convention-mocking sight gags. It's enough to keep the kids giggling and parents politely chuckling -- no more and no less.
Tartakovsky plays it safe, checking off the animated family flick entertainment by numbers CGI paint set.
Adding a new color to the palette is Kathryn Hahn, as Dracula's love interest who is intent on slaying him and his buddies. Drac is so hard up for female attention that he's willing to overlook that slight character flaw in hope that love will conquer all, despite the warnings of his daughter and squad of monster pals.
There are enough winning moments here to keep things hooting and howling, and although the story is so predictable that it doesn't really matter that the trailer gave away the entire plot, it unfolds with enough momentum to keep you from checking the time every few minutes.
In a year that has already brought the stirring "Sergeant Stubby" and mesmerizing "The Incredibles 2," "Hotel Transylvania" won't dazzle kids or bedraggled parents.
The thesis of the movie is pretty much that this series didn't need a third film. But like its vampire protagonist, it always seems to creep back to life once you think it's gone. At least he shows you a good time before returning to his coffin.
RATING: stars out of 4.