You’ve seen that episode of The Simpsons where Homer starts to develop suspicious about Bart’s sexuality and gathers his posse of barflies to take the boy out on a hunting trip in order to straighten him out? Then you’ve already seen Hotel Transylvania 2, more or less. Certainly no one’s choice to be the first sequel out of the gate from the late 2012 trio of occult kids’ cartoons (the others being ParaNorman and Frankenweenie), Hotel Transylvania 2 would’ve done best to simply offer more of the mundane same. Instead, it risks offense by putting a typically Adam Sandler-ian twist on a tired familial trope, though such risks can often be the only thing enlivening forced franchise installments like this one.
The film opens with the surprisingly swift nuptials of Cali stoner Jonathan (Andy Samberg) and nondescript vampire Mavis (Selena Gomez), only daughter of Count Dracula (Sandler). And then, with a procreative drive that would make the Duggars’ heads spin, it moves on even quicker to the birth of the newlyweds’ son, Dennis, who obsessive grandpa Drac hopes will mature into a pint-sized vampire, but who, for the most part, seems to be an unassuming, sweet-natured human boy. More distressingly, Mavis seems perfectly okay with the way her son seems to be developing. Though Dracula insists, “Human, vampire, unicorn—as long as you’re happy,” he privately schemes for ways to get the lad’s fangs to pop before his fifth birthday, which is for reasons unknown the deadline. Even kids in the audience might wonder why Dracula doesn’t just open a vein and force the kid to drink if he’s so motivated to have another bloodsucker in the family. (It would hardly be any more grotesque than the various butt-centric slapstick gags.)
Maybe sensing that 2 a.m. naptimes aren’t the most appropriate thing for their toddler, Mavis and Jonathan pack up and head to California to scope out potential new “appropriate” neighborhoods for their boy to grow up in. Swooping in on the opportunity, Dracula bands together the rest of his monster squad in order to show Dennis what real ghouls do. Unfortunately, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and the rest all prove so ferociously out of practice it almost seems to justify the anti-miscegenation credo of Drac’s own estranged father, who’s been kept completely in the dark about the “mixed marriage” of his granddaughter.
In spirit, the road-trip sequence functions on the same comedic level as it does in “Homer’s Phobia,” with the adults’ good intentions ultimately revealed for the hang-ups they truly are, and the kids’ nonchalant attitude toward their own nascent essence a case of students schooling teachers. But whereas The Simpsons lampoons the fear of parents coming to terms with the idea that their kids are unique individuals and not carbon copies, Hotel Transylvania 2 finally undoes that beautiful satire. (Here I offer an obligatory spoiler warning for a movie that’s already spoiled enough.) Sure enough, and at the very last minute, two mosquito-bite fangs poke down in young Dennis’s mouth, allowing him to save the day and validate Dracula’s mission. The message is all too clear: It’s perfectly fine for kids to be “unicorn” (read: “different”), so long as they’re other people’s kids. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s coming out the same day as Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall, GLAAD would’ve been on Hotel Transylvania 2’s case faster than Frankenstein mowing down a wedding cake.