The sequel to the 2019 reboot is an enjoyable, but unremarkable start to the Halloween movie season
There's a reason why the Addams Family have become icons of the American cartoon pantheon (although having one of the catchiest theme songs in television history doesn't hinder them).
The family of creepy but loveable archetypes have been featured across generations, between the aforementioned 1964 show, the duo of Barry Levinson films in the '90s and, most recently, MGM's animated reboot in 2019.
That project got a mostly mixed reception and, while I'd count me as part of that group, I thought there was more merit to it than I expected. The characters and animation designs felt kind of unique, and when it surpassed whatever mundane story the writers had in mind to be more macabre, it could be kind of fun.
This is to say my reaction wasn't entirely negative when the sequel was announced, as well as just forgetting about it until I got the screening invitation. With that semblance of optimism in mind, does 'The Addams Family 2' improve on the first film's strengths?
Unfortunately, not really. There's fun to be had and the film clearly has reverence for its roots, but between the inconsistent humor and lackluster story beats, what we're left with feels just a bit too unexceptional to recommend.
Some time after the events of the first film, Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz) has made an incredible discovery: a way to transfer personality traits from one living being to another. While she looks to grand ambitions for her education, her parents, Gomez and Morticia (voiced by Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron respectively) believe they are losing her and her brother, Pugsley (voiced by Javon Walton), as they get older.
The solution: a family road trip cross country alongside their Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll) and butler Lurch (voiced by Conrad Vernon) visiting all the great destinations of the United States. Along the way, a subplot begins to unfold with Rupert (voiced by Wallace Shawn), a custody lawyer seemingly convinced that Wednesday is not Gomez and Morticia's biological daughter, and the enigmatic scientist, Cyrus Strange (voiced by Bill Hader), who takes an interest in Wednesday's potentially terrifying work.
With the exception of Javon Walton replacing Finn Wolfhard, the 2019 voice cast returns for the sequel and they're mostly capable here. Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron embody a lot of Gomez and Morticia's obsessively sincere dynamic (it legitimately makes me think they'd be good in live-action) and Nick Kroll delivers a bounty of one-liners that are sure to get a laugh here and there.
But the real focus is on Wednesday, who very quickly becomes the center of the film's narrative and it's where I become the most conflicted. The choice to tease Wednesday's "true" connections to the other Addams is admittedly intriguing, especially for how eclectic their backstories are and the film's choice to frame those questions around Wednesday and Morticia's estranged bond. It's not a lot, but there is some subtext about how children can potentially view the adoption process and how parents choose to frame their relationships with their children.
The animation isn't particularly great, but like the first film, I admire how the character designs all feel uniquely bizarre, again ripped right out of Charles Addams original comic strips and getting moments to be themselves. In addition, while the humor is completely inconsistent, I counted at least half a dozen jokes I cracked up at, most of them leaning into the morbid side of the Addams' personalities and one weirdly placed joke at a gas station (don't ask, I can't explain it).
Getting back to that original Wednesday narrative though, I found myself getting increasingly bored by it as the movie went on. For as cliched as the 2019 movie's story was, it at least felt like an Addams Family movie, with stakes that consistently affected the entire family.
But between Wednesday's forays into Captain Kirk-esque monologues, Fester's subplot with the fallout from Wednesday's experiment, and occasionally shifting back to the house under the protection of Grandmama (voiced by Bette Midler), the movie feels incredibly disjointed. When the film does finally line up its story after over an hour of setup, it feels too little too late, all in the service of a big obligatory action sequence that is supposed to act as the emotional climax and falls completely flat.
It's not that a 90-minute movie can't support these characters, but rather that it chooses to take them away from situational, self-aware comedy moments to make it feel more important. We love the Addams because they're weird, they don't quite fit in, but they're so sincere and loving that you can't help but get attached to them and the film loses interest in that appeal relatively quickly.
(*As a side note that I must get off my chest, Thing, the family's chauffeur who is a disembodied hand, has a watch with an eyeball that allows him to see. There's a joke where Thing is trying to stay awake and has a cup of coffee in the camper. Instead of simply sticking Thing's thumb into the cup, the animators animate said thumb AS IF IT IS A THROAT, SUCKING AND ALL. It's the most disturbing part of the movie, I haven't stopped thinking about it, and now that image is in your head too, you're welcome.)
'The Addams Family 2' is fine, plain and simple. Like its predecessor, I'm probably being way too kind to it considering how utterly unimpressive it can feel, grinding to a halt to make its stakes more theatrical on several occasions. That being said, I can't deny the characters are fun when they get the chance to be, there are some decent jokes, and for a potential Halloween watch, it's a family movie on several levels.
Its always nice to see the Addams pop up on the big screen in whatever capacity they might, but my enjoyment of this movie comes with an abundance of unnecessary caveats.
Overall, I give 'The Addams Family 2' 5.5/10
'The Addams Family 2' is available in theaters and on video-on-demand beginning on October 1st.
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