Monday, 4 January 2016

Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)

Checking back into the Hotel Transylvania, such a lovely place, plenty of room, any time of year, you can find it here. Yes all your favourite monsters are back once again, same setting, same sort of spooky gags, but this time things have obviously moved on since we last visited, for the better? hmmm debatable. Oh and everyone's favourite comedian is back too! Kevin Adam Sandler returns with more top quality voice form...hurray?

So this time Jonathan and Mavis have ended up getting married, they have a kid, Count Dracula is fine with this, as are most of the monsters, and now its time to decide where and how to raise the child. This is the plot, the eternal struggle of raising a child, but to raise the little boy with humans or monsters? that is the question, the new direction for the franchise. Now admittedly this angle was kinda inevitable with the whole monsters vs humans scenario, it does make sense, but that doesn't mean its right. Essentially what we have here is a completely cringeworthy, vomit inducing, politically correct tour de force that is quite literately shoved down your throat until its popping out at the other end. For a start they have neutered the monsters, in the first movie the whole acceptance/stand-off issue between humans and monsters was amusing, but now monsters have 'moved on', they have 'progressed', they no longer scare, eat or hunt humans, they are all friendly, tech savy and into selfies. 'Listen, I'm not gonna set monsters back again just to make your kid like vampires', ugh! I could actually really sympathise with the Count on how wet all his monster buddies had become.

Now of course I realise this is essentially a kids flick so...don't take it seriously, check, but the whole thing just frustrates me. On one hand the whole angle of these monsters being rusty and out of tune with actually being scary monsters is fun, good angle, but some of the dialog and the entire direction they take is so disgustingly PC I just couldn't enjoy it. There is clearly a big moral message in here about acceptance, and more importantly, mixed race relations it seems. Monsters in relationships with humans, the human parents meeting the monsters for the first time, trying to fit in but kinda not doing, making faux pas, a total culture clash, we get it movie. Again this concept could be cool but you always get the inkling that deep down they wouldn't dare make too much fun of this whole notion because its too close to reality (not the monsters obviously), that and its a kids film of course.

Another decent idea played out in one sequence was the overly protective PC vampire camp for young vampires to hone their skills. The Count and co take his young grandson along to try and coax out his evil vampire traits, the emphasis being on wickedly evil of course (wide grin). When they arrive the Count is horrified to find the camp has been turned into a namby pamby, nanny controlled, lawsuit-sensitive summer camp, which in-turn is now run by a predictable social justice warrior type, complete with hipster beard and campy voice (I think we've all seen many of these student types around). Now again, on one hand I can see that the team behind the movie are (presumably!) mocking this PC viewpoint of the modern era, the fact everything is child proof. On the other hand (again), its still frustrating because its bringing attention to this type of crap which actually goes on in reality, and I'm still not totally convinced if its in here to take the piss or because we all live in an ultra PC society these days and everyone has to conform, including horror icons apparently.

Now don't get me wrong, the movie isn't all about some preachy PC message (not all of it anyway), there is some fun to be had. Much of this fun comes from the core characters, Frankenstein's monster (Frank), Wayne the werewolf, Griffin the invisible man, Blobby the green blob and Murray the mummy. Each of these guys are actually brilliantly funny at times and all interact really well amongst themselves, including with the Count. One running gag I did enjoy was the invisible man and his apparent invisible girlfriend, who is clearly make-believe, but because they are invisible no one can tell. I liked the Count's issues with trying to work modern day technology such as smartphones, he can't use them because his fingernails are too long. The road trip to try and break out little Dennisovitch's (actually named Dennis by his parents but the Count makes it more...vampire-ish) vampire abilities gives us some nice moments. Wayne acting more like a dog than a werewolf, Blobby getting bullied, ignored and pushed around and the Count's growing frustration at his friends inabilities to actually perform like proper monsters. Credit where credits due, all of the voice work for these guys is funny and witty and everyone from Kevin James to Sandler puts in a solid performance. Buscemi and Spade hitting the main home runs for sure, but the overall cast line-up in this film is impressive.

I gotta also mention the use of Mel Brooks as Vlad (Drac's father), nice touch! Definitely gave a really cool olde worlde charm to the latter half of the movie, with the added bonus of some classy old school spoofery to boot! I also liked his large gang of huge vampire-like bat creatures too, great design, eerie, uber cool...yet completely unexplained, like why did they carry on fighting the good guys once Dennisovitch is discovered to be a vampire? never mind. The visual effects were great everywhere actually, just like the first movie. Terrific attention to details on interior and exterior locations, colourful, vibrant, zany, displaying Geddy Tartaovsky's unique artistic style in 3D, wonderfully atmospheric and kooky.

The movie is a mixed bag of highs and lows, some nice ideas, good laughs, good visuals and I adore the iconic gothic horror genre to death (see what I did...never mind). Downside, are they serious about all the sickly politically correct righteousness going on here? can't decide...probably are. Plus this is a kids movie so expect lots of God awful modern music slapped in for no real reason whatsoever, it just kills any atmosphere dead in its tracks everytime. Its not bad, its not good, its not original, but it could of been better, they haven't really learnt much from the first movie, clearly.