WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony's Hotel Transylvania 3, in theaters now.
Hotel Transylvania is in many ways Sony Pictures Animation's response to the Disney/Pixar properties that dominate the same market. The success of the first two features spawned video games, a television series, a pair of short films and, now, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
Directed once more by Genndy Tartakovsky, the sequel continues the lighthearted depiction of Hollywood's famous monsters attempting to live alongside humans, while sticking to the core theme of family. The 2012 original focused on the relationship between a father and daughter as she comes of age, while the 2015 follow-up embraced parenthood. Now Summer Vacation deals with adult romance.
However, while the story raises the stakes, it still maintains a family-friendly essence, and feels like the most inclusive and best chapter of the series to date.
Summer Vacation reiterates how much more life is left in the franchise, because it opens up a lot of possibilities, while remaining loyal to the characters and overarching narratives. The difference here is that the third film brings things back to the central character, Dracula (Adam Sandler), who's by far the most interesting. The first Hotel Transylvania smartly played up Dracula's fear of the growing love between his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and the human Johnny (Andy Samberg), but the sequel, as good as it was, shifted to them as a married couple concerned about their young son Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), a vampire-human hybrid.
Unfortunately, Sandler's Dracula, who had the best lines and most hilarious moments in both of those movies, felt like a supporting character. But in Summer Vacation, it's all about him again. After basically becoming a workaholic running his hotel, his family drags him on a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle, where he finds love again, or as he calls it, "zings," something he thought he'd never do after losing Mavis' mother decades ago. It's a warm story of him finding another soul mate, and speaks to adults as it shows there can be love, and life, after a loss. Apart from this deep and highly emotive arc, we also see how Mavis reacts jealously while everyone else tries to tell her that Dracula deserves some form of happiness.