Hotel Transylvania 2
Christian Movie Review
[Note: after you read my review below, if you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, please check out our editor Kevin Ott’s new blog Stabs of Joy or his podcast Aslan’s Paw. Both seek to crack open the surprising treasures of Christian belief — the things that Western society has forgotten, ignored, or never encountered — with the help of logic, literature, film, music, and one very unsafe Lion.]
Vampires, zombies and mummies — oh my! Those animated monsters are at it again in “Hotel Transylvania 2” as it continues the plot of mismatched lovers Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) getting married and having a son. The main conflict arises when son Dennis (cutely voiced by Asher Blinkoff, whose real-life dad directed season 2 of Doc McStuffins), who, biologically speaking, is half-human and half-vampire, is almost five and has not grown fangs (meaning he is fully human and not a vampire) — to his grandfather Count Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) dismay. Add to the mix the family conflict when Mavis announces she is ready to leave the safe haven of the hotel for California to live among humans and we have quite the monster mash.
Parental Guidance Content at a Glance for this PG rated film…
Sexual Themes or “Bathroom” Humor: In one scene a character says someone’s hair looks like their “grandma’s boobies.” An awkward moment arises when an overweight male character is caught without a shirt. A blob pees against a tree with several streams of urination seen. A character is seen in the bathroom pulling down his shorts.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: There is a large amount of cartoon-type violence, gore and effects played to scare the audience. Characters are, obviously, monster-based and frequently eat foods that fit with that, such as goop with eyeballs. A character catches on fire. References are made to the original lore of the characters (i.e. werewolves kill animals and eat them). Young children are put in danger several times by adults, such as kids being attacked by werewolf gangs (left bloodied, scratched and clothes ripped) and thrown off a tower.
Language: Mildly crude or disrespectful “language” found in modern PG movies (i.e. “butt,” “stupid”).
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
(Review continues below)
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The animation quality is amped up from the first movie. The film has a great contrast of dark and light, smoke and clarity — more than I have ever seen depicted in a movie. For example, just when you get used to the darkness of Transylvania, we are taken out of that world to sunshiny California. This juxtaposition was refreshing. The stark difference breaks up the darkness and brings some new life in the color and feel. There were less laugh-out-loud funny lines than I thought there would be. This isn’t really a movie that sticks with you or has any great quotable lines that will keep you laughing after the credits roll.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, the Question of “Spiritual Edification,” Etc.
Hollywood loves the paranormal and supernatural. While this is on the surface a kid-friendly scary monster film, the lore of vampires is a deeper issue to consider. If your family celebrates Halloween and your kid is okay with the scary images you would see in any department store this time of year, you may not have any issues. It’s that innocuous on the surface. If you are a parent who is considering bringing your child, I think it’s worth taking a brief minute to think through it before introducing your children to the dark world of vampires. Yes, I’m aware that even Sesame Street has one, but consider the view presented just in Wikipedia’s entry on vampires:
Vampirism and the Vampire lifestyle also represent a relevant part of modern day’s occultist movements. The mythos of the vampire, his magickal qualities, allure, and predatory archetype express a strong symbolism that can be used in ritual, energy work, and magick, and can even be adopted as a spiritual system. The vampire has been part of the occult society in Europe for centuries and has spread into the American sub-culture as well for more than a decade, being strongly influenced by and mixed with the neo gothic aesthetics.
That quote isn’t an alarmist Christian quote to try to convince you of their evils; this is just stating the fact that vampires are a very important part of the occult movement. I think it’s worth thinking through the questions that could result from children seeing this movie. While I would say to keep this at age 7 and up (generally considered an age when children can distinguish fantasy from real life) there were kids as young as 3 sitting in the theater when I watched it, and they laughed and talked through it like it was nothing. Interestingly enough, the idea that humans are no longer afraid of monsters is something that both Hotel Transylvania movies address. Most modern school-going kids will be able to watch this and move along as if it were nothing. But I think it’s worth it to at least consider the ramifications of what it might mean for a child to associate an animated character as funny as this Count Dracula with something much darker like the occult. On one hand, it’s a silly story. On another hand, the practice of the occult is very real.
If you’re looking to entertain the kids for 90 minutes it should do the trick. Adults will mainly endure it. Don’t expect anymore from this fly-by-night (pun intended), well-animated and well-voiced but vapid film.
My rating for “Hotel Transylvania 2”: [usr 5] (See my notes below on the rating scale.)
[NOTE: If you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis or U2, please be sure to read our editor Kevin’s new blog Stabs of Joy, which explores 18 C.S. Lewis books and 13 U2 albums to answer one question: how do we really experience Christ’s joy — and not just talk about it — during seasons of sorrow and difficulty?]
Note about my rating system for the movie’s film craft and entertainment value:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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