New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams created The Addams Family, a delightfully weird and wacky family of macabre cartoon characters, back in the late 1930s. He continued offering up strange and darkly humorous cartoons of his popular clan until his death in the 1980s. The Addams family was a surprise hit, inspiring a live-action TV series in the 1960s, another live-action series in the 70s, two live-action movies in the 90s, an animated series in the 90s, another live-action series in the late 90s, and more. Two years ago, writer Matt Lieberman and director Greg Tiernan revisited the kooky family for the animated “The Addams Family” film. And now Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsly, and the rest of the gang are back in The Addams Family 2.
The first film offered up a fun juxtaposition of the family living in a haunted mansion (of course) in the middle of suburbia, though it was really a coming-of-age story for the perpetually tween Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz). Wednesday didn’t particularly like being “cage-schooled” (the family’s inevitably dark variation on homeschooling) and joined the local public school, with various amusing results. The film itself is quite benign, with sporadic amusing sight gags and a feel-good theme of accepting others and appreciating differences, rather than being frightened by them.
In The Addams Family 2, it’s Wednesday (voiced by Moretz) who is again having a tough time coming to terms with her identity. Like many teens who look at their parents and see nothing but horror, she wonders if perhaps they aren’t really her parents at all. Add her overly-affectionate father Gomez (voice of Oscar Isaac) and distant mother Morticia (Charlize Theron) and it’s no wonder that her only amusement is endlessly torturing her little brother Pugsly (Javon Walton). When she wins the local science fair by extracting traits from the family octopus Aristotle and injecting them into Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), fair sponsor Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader) gets quite interested: He’s been working on human/animal experiments in his laboratory for years.
Fearing that Wednesday is distancing herself from the family, Gomez hits on the brilliant plan of having a family vacation. No glamping for this family, they head out in the family RV, with the hulking Lurch (Conrad Vernon) sharing driving responsibilities with the disembodied hand Thing. The plan is to hit all the major dark history spots in the US, from Salem, Massachusettes to Death Valley, but it all goes a bit haywire when Wednesday vanishes en route. Is mad scientist Cyrus involved? Is Wednesday really an Addams?
As with the first film, “2” has a number of dark and snarky sight gags and send-ups of modern culture (be on the lookout for the awards portion of the science fair, for example) but the film ends up in a convoluted mess with multiple storylines unfolding simultaneously. The family does visit notable American landmarks, including Niagra Falls and the Grand Canyon, but “monsters on vacation” was done better in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. There’s something appealing about the Addams family, however, which is why they’ve been involved in so many media projects. Unfortunately, The Addams Family 2 lacks the wit and verve of the best of children’s animated features, instead continually going for the lazy story element. The animation is competent but no better or worse than most everything you see nowadays, whether it’s Netflix, Disney Plus, or in the cinema.
This is a film to watch at home once it’s out of theaters. You’ll chuckle a few times. You’ll nod knowingly if you have or have raised a teen daughter: Wednesday does have a number of good “typical teenager” lines throughout. Your kids might find it more amusing, but you don’t want to sit through the entire thing, stuck in a theater with other bored and disappointed parents. Or you can skip it and turn on any of hundreds of animated features to keep the kids amused and entertained, saving the ticket cost and popcorn surcharge. Not particularly recommended.