As far as the critics are concerned, Genndy Tartakovksy’s frenetic second cartoon installment of Sony’s Hotel Transyvlania franchise flies safely down the middle. But risk-taking doesn’t matter to studios, a refreshingly frank Tartakovksy hinted to Cartoon Brew this week. In Hollywood’s final analysis what audiences will pay to see is what counts as success in the industry. And audiences paid plenty this weekend, propelling Hotel Transylvania 2 to a September box office record, despite less than half of critics approving of the film.

“While it won’t ever be mistaken for premium Pixar,” explained The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen, “the Sony Pictures Animation effort should have no problem scaring up a monster debut —- the first Hotel Transylvania set a September opening weekend record -— especially considering it’ll have the family market all to itself.”

Once the Halloween season’s box office receipts are fully tallied, Hotel Transvylvania 2 could replicate its predecessor’s $148 million American haul, as well as its “A-” Cinemascore rating. Until they are, critics in the trade and mainstream press seem plenty happy to give the Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars director his well-earned animated props.

“The script by Sandler and Robert Smigel is largely by the numbers,” shrugged Charles Solomon in the Los Angeles Times. “Genndy Tartakovsky is a talented director who knows how to telegraph what an animated character is thinking and doing, and how to move a character in ways that suggest personality. He deserves a more interesting assignment than trying to wring laughs out of bodily function jokes.”

“The creator of Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory has somehow managed to kick up the energy even more for the sequel, with plenty of skateboard montages and madcap scooter races through the Transylvanian forest,” added Devan Coggan of Entertainment Weekly. “Many of the wisecracks are low-hanging fruit.”

Hotel Transylvania 2 is awash in throwaway one-liners, to the point that its plot comes across as just a rickety skeleton designed to prop up Sandler and company’s litany of cornball punchlines and gags, only a few of which cleverly play off of these characters’ iconography,” piled on Nick Schager in Variety. “As is modern mainstream animation’s custom, adults are meant to be mildly amused by the few jokes tossed their way.”

Schager tried to tease out a sexual subtext hiding beneath the domestic drama between the old-school Vlad (Mel Brooks) and the newer-school Mavis (Selena Gomez) — as well as the slowly learning Drac (the fading Adam Sandler), who spends Hotel Transylvania 2 kidnapping and terrorizing his grandson into becoming a vampire. But it might be more accurate to instead consider their disputes about “normal” from a racial or species perspective — if anyone other than reviewers paid to write about Adam Sandler’s underwhelming humor deemed it worthy of such critical investigation.

But no one does because Hotel Transylvania 2 isn’t Pixar’s more cerebral Inside Out, mostly because it had too many cooks in its high-concept kitchen, Tartakovksy told Cartoon Brew. It’s a by-the-numbers holiday cartoon, helmed by an animation wizard under siege from inferior writers and a studio in disarray.

“It may not kill you to take your kids,” concluded Glen Kenny in the New York Times, about a cartoon whose antihero almost does just that. Meta, man.

Check out the film and report back here with your opinion in the comments below. As always, this talkback is open only to those who have seen the film and wish to share an opinion about it.

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