Review: ‘The Addams Family 2’ goes on a road trip but can’t follow the first movie’s clear direction
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The 2019 animated feature “The Addams Family” was a cute refresh of the classic Addams Family characters for a new, younger audience. Clocking in at 83 years young (Charles Addams’ cartoons debuted in the New Yorker magazine in 1938), it’s amazing that the Addamses have the staying power that they do. The new films, shepherded by directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, stay true to the Charles Addams aesthetic in design and sensibility. The filmmakers have assembled a talented voice cast to embody this macabre and tight-knit family and deliver the hallmark darkly punny dialogue.
For the record:
9:05 a.m. Oct. 1, 2021An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that “The Addams Family 2” had five screenwriters. The film has four credited writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen and Susanna Fogel.
The first film struck at the heart of what makes the Addams family unique: The way they embrace being different is actually more inclusive and loving than whatever usually passes for “normal.” That sentiment is repeated in the sequel, “The Addams Family 2,” but the whole endeavor, unfortunately, delivers diminishing returns.
Lacking narrative rigor, “The Addams Family 2” is merely a series of loose vignettes knit together by a family road trip format. Patriarch Gomez (Oscar Isaac) is inspired to take the whole crew on a vacation to encourage family bonding after Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) starts to feel alienated from the rest of the Addamses, embarrassed by their overbearing affections at her school science fair. The suggestion, perpetrated by a persistent lawyer (Wallace Shawn) in hot pursuit, that Wednesday may have been switched at birth, has her questioning everything. Soon it comes to light that this lawyer has been hired by mysterious mogul Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), but his conviction that Wednesday is his true progeny could be hiding a far more nefarious agenda.
While the family hits Niagara Falls, Sleepy Hollow, Miami Beach, the Alamo and the Grand Canyon, it’s a chance for Wednesday to consider what it means to be an Addams. But the plot structure just feels like the opportunity for a series of slapdash sketches with references to other films like “Carrie,” “Top Gun” and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” plus, of course, lots of random moments and montages set to pop tunes. As Wednesday uses a voodoo doll to marionette poor Pugsley (Javon Walton) around to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” the opening bars of the song will send any elderly millennial or Gen-Xer right back to a sticky beer-soaked dive bar, and that nostalgia bait seems the only reason for that sequence to exist.
“The Addams Family 2” feels as if it’s lost the spark of the first one. The jokes that felt fresh in the first film are stale here, with the story’s twists glaringly predictable. The film boasts four different screenwriters and one can’t help but wonder if this might be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. The film could be amusing for a very young set, but alas, it’s not even spooky enough to truly delight the little horror hound in your life.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.
‘The Addams Family 2’
Rated: PG, for macabre and rude humor, violence and language
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 1 in general release; also available on premium VOD
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