Devoted single dad Drac (Brad Hull replacing Adam Sandler) has never been comfortable with his human son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg). It is more than just the difference between monsters and humans. Drac is by nature restrained, anxious, and resistant to change while Johnny is ebullient, adventuresome, and impulsive. As the movie opens, the hotel is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the hotel and getting ready to turn the hotel over to his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez, now producer of the film as well as star) and Johnny. But Johnny’s enthusiastic reaction and plans for changes make him reconsider. Drac lies to Johnny, telling him he would give them hotel, “real estate law” forbids transfer of property to a human. Johnny does not want to disappoint Mavis, so he impulsively visits the basement lab of mad scientist Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who happens to have a transforming ray on hand. Prudently, he first tests it on an actual guinea pig. Satisfied with the monster-fied results, he trains it on Johnny, who is delighted with his new dragon-like monster self.
When the ray accidentally hits Drac, though, the results are not nearly as welcome. No powers! No fangs! Receding hairline! And worst of all, a dad bod! Talk about terrifying! The magic monster-making crystal breaks, and the only way to return them to their original forms is to find another one, following a monster-ific GPS to a rainforest in South America. And so, it is a road movie, with two very different people, now suddenly different from their own selves as well as from each other, learning to work together along the way.
That is part of what makes it so much fun that the characters are so far from their most fundamental sense of who they are. Drac goes from frustrated fury at not being able to fly or use mind control, to delight at experiencing what seems very ordinary to us—sunlight. He may be a vampire, but he is horrified when he is confronted by another species of blood-sucker—mosquitos.
The animation is exceptionally detailed, supple and dynamic. The interplay of the images with the action and dialogue adds emphasis and clever twists that will reward a second and third viewing. There is a lively plasticity to the characters that is exaggerated enough to take advantage of the animator’s unlimited imagination while staying completely consistent with the internal reality of the world where, after three other movies plus shorts and video games with these characters, we feel at home. The gestures and facial expressions are hilarious but always in service of story and character.