Every parent knows the conflict around letting go as their children become adults, of seeing them leave the proverbial nest whether you’re ready for it or not. If you’re a single parent, it can be more challenging, and perhaps the most challenging of all transitions is a father being able to truly let go of his daughter as she becomes a woman and travels her own path in the world.
With many comic moments and delightful visual gags, a father letting go of his beloved daughter is really the story of Hotel Transylvania 2, a sequel to the amusing 2012 animated feature about both parenting and race relations. In the original, single father Count Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) creates a hotel for monsters where they can relax without fear of discovery from humans. When surfer dude Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles into the hotel, he’s surprisingly not upset by all the monsters and quickly falls head over heels for Mavis (Selana Gomez), Dracula’s daughter, who is also quickly smitten.
The first film ends with human and vampire deciding to get married (don’t get too caught up in the logistics. It’s an animated children’s movie, after all) and the second picks up with Mavis and Jonathan expecting a child of their own. Dad, meanwhile, is doing everything he can to convince Mavis that she should stay in Transylvania for the rest of her life and raise their child in the Hotel rather than fly to California and live near Jonathan’s family.
In a parallel to what some interracial parents must wonder, the big question in Hotel Transylvania 2 is whether the child Dennis (Asher Blinkoff) has latent monster abilities from his mother’s side of the family, or is just a human like his father. When Mavis and Jonathan decide to visit his family half-way around the world in Santa Cruz, California, Dracula and his buddies take advantage of the opportunity to put Dennis through an improvised monster boot camp to try and draw out any latent skills or abilities. With predictably wacky and hilarious results.
With that as the set up, Hotel Transylvania 2 manages to address some thoughtful topics while never slowing down with the antics and sight humor. Dracula’s best friends are Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), and Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) and while they are frequently alarmed and concerned about the tests Dracula imposes on little Dennis, it’s all done with a light humor that keeps the laughs flowing and, of course, the little guy never gets hurt.
In recent years, Adam Sandler has released a series of bombs at the box office, so it’s reassuring to report that Hotel Transylvania 2 is a nice, entertaining feature that has a classic animation style and pacing. Not only did my children find the film quite amusing but I also enjoyed it from start to finish, likely also recognizing a lot of passing “easter egg” lines and references that they missed completely. But that’s the mark of a good children’s movie, in my opinion, a film that works at one level for the children, but also has something to share with adults.
As a single father whose daughter is in a pretty serious relationship with her college sweetheart, I can also relate to Count Dracula’s dilemma about letting his daughter step out to her own life, or holding her close even as it gets increasingly awkward. Sometimes love is letting go, not holding on tighter. And that’s a message for many of us to think about.
Lots of children’s movies are just time fillers. Hotel Transylvania 2 isn’t in that category. Check it out!