Year 8, Day 287 - 10/13/16 - Movie #2,465
BEFORE: We had a large spider out on on our back porch for about two weeks, and it would spin a web over our kitchen door and sit right in the middle, which put it in the middle of the door's window, and it scared me the first few times I saw it, so much that I was afraid to go out on the porch and feed the two stray cats in my backyard, for fear that the spider would get in the house while I did that. My wife said that if the spider got in the house, she'd be moving out shortly after that. I swear, this spider was so big, when it stretched its legs out, it looked like a small king crab.
When I finally opened the back door after a few days of guilt-inducing stares from the cats, the door ruined "Crabbie's" web, and she would run up one of the web-lines and perch on the flood-light, right over the door. This wasn't much of a better situation, because I felt that if I stepped outside, Crabbie (assuming she was a deadly brown recluse spider, which I had concluded was a definite possibility) could possibly jump off the light-bulb, fall into my shirt via the neck-hole, bite my throat and I'd die, leaving her to build whatever size web she wanted on our porch. So I was very careful when I stepped out onto the porch to make sure I had eyes on the spider, and she stayed up on the light.
I imagine that Crabbie got sick of me destroying her web, throwing two or four legs up in the air in frustration each time, because last Saturday, while I was at Comic-Con, my wife told me that the spider had left the porch, and set up a new web between the neighbor's phone cable and the fence. It was a rainy day, maybe this was a better place to catch mosquitoes, I don't know. But we can see her from the bedroom window (and that's, like, 20 feet away - I told you, she's a big spider...) and I'm glad she moved of her own accord. I just thought it was funny that during a time when many people are decorating their porches with fake spider-webs for Halloween, we had the real thing.
Now I realize why my brain put "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" next to this one, because both films are set in hotels (one in Las Vegas, one in Transylvania) and both feature overprotective fathers as their central characters. Kevin James carries over for his third film in a row, and provides the voice of (I'm guessing) the incorrectly named "Frankenstein" character.
A couple of months ago, the cable system's On Demand feature was really screwed up, I guess nothing would play for a week or two, and to make up for it, all the TW customers affected got a coupon for a free premium movie. I thought about getting "The Hateful Eight", just because its length would have made it the best value for the coupon, but I rented this film instead, just to make sure I'd have it in time for a place in this year's chain.
FOLLOW-UP TO: "Hotel Transylvania" (Movie #1,567)
THE PLOT: Dracula and his friends try to bring out the monster in his half-human, half-vampire grandson in order to keep his daughter Mavis from leaving the hotel.
AFTER: Another day, another sequel. I re-read my review of the first "Hotel Transylvania" film, and it seems that even though I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and clever in its set-up of monsters running a hotel, I was down on the way it reduced a bunch of scary movie monsters to a set of child-friendly running gags. Because it's part of what I see as the "dumbing down" of America, plus the way that my generation has coddled the millennials, collectively keeping our kids away from anything that can harm them, upset them or even inconvenience them, which has created a generation of entitled millennial slackers who can't handle even the slightest bit of hardship. I hate to sound like an old fogey here, but you damn hipsters are just so weak and soft
In response to my complaints (and presumably, those of other people), this franchise has now refocuses its aim against the millennial generation, presenting a (presumably) Baby-BOO-mer Count Dracula, who's out of touch with the modern generation of kids. In the first film he couldn't see eye-to-eye with his daughter's boyfriend Johnny, partially because Johnny was human, about 100 years younger than her, and for some strange reason, his daughter refused to drink his blood and turn him into a zombified vampire slave. Kids today, what are you gonna do with them?
My feeling now is that this is really pretty clever, the human/vampire disconnect is subtle code for any major difference between two people, whether that's their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. The second film starts with Mavis and Johnny's wedding, where the guests are half monster and half human, and references are made throughout to "mixed" marriages. But this married couple faces some of the same challenges that any young couple might face - which set of parents should we live closer to? Where should we spend our holidays? (In this case, it's easy - Halloween in Transylvania, then Christmas in California, duh.) And when a baby comes along, how should it be raised, as a human, or as a vampire?
The film fast-forwards through four years of baby Dennis's life - which at first seems like a mistake, and to explain it the plot arbitrarily states that the child may not display any characteristics of being a vampire until the age of 5, but if he doesn't seem like a vampire on his fifth birthday, he'll never be one. Many things here seem counter to the rules of vampirism. First off, who knew vampires could be pregnant? The usual traditional way to make more vampires is just to bite some more humans, right? But I guess Dracula and his late wife did have Mavis the "natural" way, so I'll concede this point. But then who can say whether a human and vampire can even HAVE a child together? Are they even still the same species? And why five years old, and why such a hard cut-off for displaying monster-like tendencies? And if he's not a vampire by age 6, can't his mother just bite him and turn him into one, why isn't that regarded as an option?
Ah, but then I realized (through my experiences watching my niece and nephew) why the film sped through the first four years of Dennis' life. Because babies, on a whole, are not that interesting - despite what their parents all seem to think on Facebook. Newsflash, from all people without babies to those with - nobody cares. Your kid with a bowl of oatmeal dumped on his head is not remotely interesting, or funny, he's just a klutz. At least kids who are five can talk and think for themselves - before that, they can barely function, they can't feed themselves, and some of them don't even know how to use a toilet! They're just poop machines and germ factories - where is the appeal of that? Geez, if I spent that much time hanging out with people who were incoherent, prone to spitting up and soiling their pants, I'd think I was back in college... Bottom line, I just don't get the baby thing. Finally my niece and nephew are seven, and I can discuss things like comic books and "Star Wars" with them.
I get that we're all looking for common ground, and a way to connect, and this movie gets that. And if you had trouble connecting with your kids, imagine how much harder it must be to connect with your grand-kids! While some of the gags here are low-hanging fruit - like, Dracula's an older guy, so he can't figure out how to send a text message (really?) some of it does go a bit deeper. When Drac learns that his daughter is thinking of raising Dennis in California, he encourages her to go and check out Santa Cruz (Spanish for "Holy Cross", how ironic) while he's got another plan in motion - he and his monster buddies take the little boy out to their old "haunts", to show him how monsters act.
Wouldn't you know, the monsters have become all old and tired, and they've forgotten how to be scary. People would rather take a selfie with them than be scared by them - I guess they're just not as scary as terrorist attacks or Presidential elections. The Werewolf would rather chase a frisbee than kill his prey, and the mummy can't even summon a decent sandstorm anymore. If you're watching this film with your kids, you may see a bit of yourself in these characters - if so, my condolences. Even taking the kid out to Vampire Camp is a big bust, because the kids don't play competitive sports any more (I guess they all get participation trophies now) and even the flying lessons are done with excessive safety equipment.
The whole thing culminates with Dennis's fifth birthday party, to which Dracula's father gets mistakenly invited, and he turns out to be REALLY old school, like he still bites humans and drinks their blood, ugh, how barbaric. So he regards humans as food, and willing subjects for possession, how will he react when he learns his granddaughter is married to one?
There are massive story problems with the "Bela" character - what is it? What's his connection to Great-Vampa Vlad? He looks more bat-like, so is he a pet, a family friend, Vlad's boyfriend? It's unclear. The addition of this character seems like a cheat, basically splitting the older generation character into two pieces, one of which ultimately approves of the human/vampire marriage and one that doesn't. One serves as the villain that gets defeated in the action sequence, and the other gets to be the loving old-timer who finally sees the light. It's like the screenwriter couldn't decide which way to go and said, "Screw it, let's do both things."
Someone also apparently paid attention to my complaints about confusing "Frankenstein's Monster" with "Frankenstein" the doctor, because the monster here does take the time to explain that it's not really his name, that people often make this simple mistake. But then, during the rest of the film, he's called "Frank" by everyone. Why, because it's easier to just keep giving in to ignorance? Come on, be bold, take a stand, prove that you know more than the audience does! (Try it, it's fun!) So points for making the attempt, but these points are NEGATED by not being consistent throughout the rest of the movie.
NITPICK POINT: The character this film calls "Bigfoot" is WAY out of proportion - sure, a joke can be funny when taken to extremes, but this makes no sense. We see a foot, but the rest of the character is so big, it's out of frame. My guess is that they intended to call the character "King Kong", but then got a call from another company's lawyer, so they had to change the name.
NITPICK POINT #2: For the 2nd time in the series, we're shown a vampire's birthday party. But if you're an immortal vampire, you don't age, right? So why do they need a birthday? And now tonight we see a baby vampire grow up, at a regular human rate. So which is it, are vampires immortal, they age slowly, or they age regularly? This gets more confusing the more you pick it apart.
Also starring the voices of: Adam Sandler (last seen in "Pixels"), Selena Gomez (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Andy Samberg (last heard in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2"), Steve Buscemi (last seen in "Big Daddy"), David Spade (last seen in "A Very Brady Sequel"), Keegan-Michael Key (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Asher Blinkoff, Fran Drescher (last seen in "The Big Picture"), Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally (last seen in "About Last Night..."), Nick Offerman (last seen in "In a World..."), Mel Brooks, Rob Riggle (last seen in "Dumb and Dumber To"), Dana Carvey, Chris Kattan, Jon Lovitz (last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Robert Smigel (also last seen in "Pixels"), Nick Swardson (ditto), Chris Parnell (last seen in "Sisters"), Luenell.
RATING: 6 out of 10 Slurpee flavors