The iconic kooky and spooky family hits a new low in big-screen excursions.
The Addams Family characters have existed since 1938 and yet they’ve never felt as tired as they do in The Addams Family 2. A “kooky and spooky” family once known for subverting the norms is now the star of a movie that couldn’t be more ordinary. If you’ve seen one subpar computer-animated kids film from the last 15 years, you’ve probably seen all the worst bathroom and slapstick gags The Addams Family 2 has to offer. Here’s a feature that can’t be called a success unless it’s intended goal was to make one yearn for the sophistication of Hotel Transylvania 2.
Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) is feeling distressed over how distant his daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) is becoming. To try and revive their relationship, he and his wife, Morticia (Charlize Theron), decide to take a cue from the movie RV and embark with their distant family on a cross-country road trip. Simultaneously, Gomez and Morticia discover the shocking revelation that Wednesday isn’t their daughter. While everyone tries to appreciate tourist spots like Niagara Falls, the lingering question of what it means to be an Addams lingers over everything.
Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon have assembled less of a movie and more of a compilation of ideas for Addams Family shorts. Pugsley has his recurring troubles with the ladies, while Uncle Fester gradually turns into an octopus throughout the runtime. The disjointed narrative would be a non-issue if all the tangents The Addams Family 2 went down were funny. But they’re not. A quartet of screenwriters (including Ben Queen and Susannah Fogel) can’t come up with more imaginative gags than having Wednesday Addams refer to the witches who got burned at the Salem Witch trial as “squad goals.”
Seemingly cognizant of how much the jokes aren’t working, The Addams Family 2 packs its runtime with pop culture references that have no other purpose than to remind adults of old familiar things. Little River Band’s “Lonesome Loser” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” each get trotted out for forgettable needle drops. For some ungodly reason, the Girls Gone Wild property is namedropped in 2021. Kids won’t know what’s happening, adults won’t laugh. Only Wednesday Addams excitedly comparing herself to the ill-fated Donner Party yields a successful laugh here.
The emphasis on thinly connected gags from a 1990s sitcom goes from being frustrating to baffling once The Addams Family 2 decides it wants us to take Wednesday’s struggle to find a family seriously. The Addams Family 2 turns on the waterworks for a sentimental finale where the central themes get laid out in didactic treacly dialogue. Just turning on some cloying violins and having everyone on-screen sport a frown won’t immediately give your animated movie the emotional heft of Soul. The Addams Family 2 desperately wants to touch either your funny bone or your heart, but its approach in getting to both organs is about as comfortable as a colonoscopy.
While the gags and pathos in The Addams Family 2 crash and burn, more interesting, for all the wrong reasons, is who gets constituted as “weird” from the perspectives of The Addams Family. An opening scene poking fun at ordinary school kids getting “participation trophies” already leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. A weird obsession throughout the movie of portraying young women taking selfies, using their phones, and speaking in modern lingo as something to be mocked is similarly unnerving.
The Addams Family have often been beloved by societal underdogs for how they undefined the inherent strangeness in privileged groups. Here in The Addams Family 2, the point-of-view of the titular clan is only used to regurgitate baby boomer complaints about young people from 2015. What a total waste.
Seemingly cognizant of how much the jokes aren’t working, [it] packs its runtime with pop culture references that have no other purpose than to remind adults of old familiar things.
The closest The Addams Family 2 comes to successfully providing commentary on the weirdness of mundane life is having the titular family encounter a Texas beauty pageant for young girls. Few of the gags here are fresh, but conceptually, it’s a decent backdrop to utilize to show how strange everyday humans are. Unfortunately, this potentially interesting avenue gets quickly eschewed for more forgettable road trip detours. These include Wednesday’s excursion into a biker bar that’ll just make you want to go home and watch Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
What a shame the star-studded voice cast gets saddled with such exhaustingly familiar stabs at social commentary. The likes of Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron have tackled some challenging roles in their esteemed careers, but even they can’t make the weakest puns and jokes in this script soar. On the topic of voice actors, somebody needed to par down Nick Kroll’s presence as Uncle Fester. His vocals are just so irritating and Kroll can’t make constant shouting inherently humorous like The Addams Family 2 always presume it is.
The best animated kids fare is often said to appeal to kids and adults with equal levels of success. In the case of The Addams Family 2, youngsters and their parents will be equally bored by what’s going on on-screen. Witty retorts about “I’ve always been social distancing” and tedious pabulum about what it means to be family; nobody in any age range is going to be entertained by that. With so many superior options for family entertainment fare out there, The Addams Family 2 should be discarded like a piece of old taffy in a trick-or-treaters candy basket.
The Addams Family 2 is now playing in theaters.