Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

★ ★ ★ ★

The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, the Mummy and let’s not forget Dracula all make appearances in “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” but the new, animated Adam Sandler movie isn’t about the monsters, it’s about the importance of kindness and family.

At the beginning of the film Dracula (voice of Sandler) is feeling down, stressed out from the pressure of running his luxury hotel. On top of that, seems even the Prince of Darkness has trouble meeting women. He’s forlorn, hasn’t had a date in 100 years and his voice-activated dating app is no help. “I’m lonely,” he says. “You want bologna?” it replies.

Noticing her dad is depressed daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) arranges for a special treat; some time away with family and friends. “I figured you need a vacation from running everyone else’s vacations,” she says. She books passage on the monster cruise of a lifetime, a journey into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle.

Once onboard Drac immediately falls for Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). The heart knows what it wants, even if it is a cold, un-beating heart. They hit it off, but it turns out Ericka might have an ulterior motive for returning Drac’s advances.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” is filled with the easy sentimentality that mars Sandler’s live action films. Good messages about acceptance—“We’re here, we’re hairy and it’s our right to be scary!”—tradition and finding your own way in the world—“ You have to honour the past but we have to make our own future,” says Drac.—are hammered home like a stake through the heart.

Surrounding the family friendly clichés are an untraditional cast of cute monsters and that’s the movie’s strength. The fun of “Hotel Transylvania 3” is in the details not the story. The kid friendly creepy crawlies, deadpan fish cruise ship staff, Grandpa Dracula’s (Mel Brooks) skimpy withered green body and Captain Ericka’s underwater craft that looks like it just floated in from “Yellow Submarine” are all a hoot. Come for the creatures, stay for the silly fun.

“Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” doesn’t add up to much story-wise—music and dance numbers, though inventively staged, pad out the running time to feature length—but the messages of tolerance and kindness are important themes in today’s increasingly serious world. “Gotta be great-a than the hatas,” says one monster. That’s advice you can take to the (blood) bank.

4 STARS