Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween! Hotel Transylvania 2 Adoption Movie Review

The unlikely couple of Mavis, a vampire, and Johnny, a goofy human, have married and are now expecting a baby. They live together with Mavis’ family in the hotel run by her father, Dracula. Dracula is excited about the thought of a new vampire being born into the family. Mavis cautions her father that, since Johnny is a human, their baby might not be a vampire. Dracula ignores these concerns, certain that his grandchild will be a vampire like he is.

When Dennis is born, Dracula is upset that he does not show immediate signs of being a vampire, and is terrified that his own father, the human-hating Vlad, will be dangerously angered. As Dennis continues to grow into toddlerhood, he still seems decidedly non-vampire. Dracula begins to feel tense as Dennis approaches his fifth birthday, because that’s the latest he might be revealed as a vampire.

The Adoption Connection

This is a movie about genetics. Mavis and Johnny are about to have a child, and Mavis’ family wants the child to take after them. Johnny’s family distrusts the people that Mavis considers family, and implies that it would be better for Dennis to be around “normal” people.  Dracula takes Dennis on a secret trip in an attempt to turn him into a vampire.

Vlad seems likely to reject Dennis because Dennis is not genetically similar enough to Vlad. 

Adoptive families who have experienced negative reactions to the adoption by members of their extended family might resonate.

Characters wonder how Dennis will be accepted in the monster culture if he himself isn’t a monster. 

Mavis and Johnny consider moving to be near people “more like” Dennis.

Strong Points

Dracula obviously loves his daughter Mavis, and reminisces about her as a young girl. She’s still his little girl in his eyes. He’s also come to accept Johnny as part of his family, and shows that he loves Dennis as well.

One character defends Dennis, telling another character “You can’t just make somebody something they’re not.”

Mavis and Johnny have a strong relationship. They express their love to each other as well as their need for attention from each other. One affirms, “As long as we’re all together, we’ll be happy anywhere.”
Insensitivity gets corrected. One character asks, “Can we stop using the world “normal?” Didn’t expect this one to have implications for cultural sensitivity, did you?

A family member sticks up for Dennis, telling another, “If you can’t give him the love he deserves because he’s half-human, then you’re the fool.”

There are a lot of laughs in this one.


Vlad hates humans. Dracula jokes that, instead of embracing Johnny into the family, Vlad (who Dracula describes as “old school”) simply “would have eaten him.”

** SPOILER ALERT – After Dracula tries to make Dennis into a vampire, Dennis ultimately shows himself to be one. I think the movie might have had a better message if Dennis wasn’t a vampire but Dracula came to love him anyway. The way the film is, there’s still some pressure on the child to live up to his family’s cultural/genetic expectations, and that might be hard for some kids to see. It’s almost like the film is saying “You can’t make somebody something they’re not… but they might end up being what you hope for anyway.” And although that’s true, it feels like it kind of undercuts the message of true acceptance. What’s the difference between acceptance of who your (grand)kid is and a disappointed tolerance of who they are? I feel like this film might have confused one for the other. END SPOILER ***
There are some frightening scenes where children are in peril. One is tied into Dracula’s determination for Dennis to be revealed as a vampire – he throws Dennis off a high tower, anticipating that Dennis will fly. He waits until almost the last minute to rescue him. Another character tells Dracula, “I can’t not report child endangerment.” Mavis responds by telling her father “I don’t think he’s safe around you,” and challenging him that, although he lets humans sleep in his hotel, “I don’t think you’ve let them into your heart.” This scene could be rough for kids who’ve been hurt by a parent or caregiver, but it also shows the abuser getting reprimanded by a fiercely loving mom.

Dennis wonders if his family’s potential move is his own fault.


This is a good one. There are some scary scenes, and I do have one reservation that I explained in the spoiler above, this is a movie that depicts parental love in the face of an extended family failing to accept a child who is genetically different from them. In the long run, everything turns out OK. This one will be scary for very young kids who might also be triggered by some scenes of kids being endangered by family members, but kids ages 8 and up should be able to enjoy it, and parental “debriefing” could help make sure that any potential triggers are processed.

Questions for Discussion

Whose fault was it that Vlad was unhappy?

How do you know that you belong in a particular family?

If you could turn into any animal, what would you choose?

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