Review: “The Addams Family 2”

2019’s animated “The Addams Family” movie was a disappointment largely in how it shoehorned its unconventional characters into such a conventional plot, but at least it showcased the weirdness of each character and the spooky mansion they live in. Not even that can be said for its new sequel, “The Addams Family 2,” which sees the Addams’ leave said spooky mansion for a road trip across the country in a film that is neither creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, or even a little bit ooky.

Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon return to direct this sequel based on the comic characters created by Charles Addams (later to spawn an iconic TV show and a pair of cult classic live-action feature films). “The Addams Family 2” opens with Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) presenting her project at her school science fair, showing up her more typical classmates with an experiment involving injecting Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) with squid DNA to show how the humans can be improved. Her work catches the eye of scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), but Wednesday is less enthused by the appearance of her family. Afraid that Wednesday and Pugsley (Javon Walton)—who is suddenly interested in catching girls’ attention—are drifting away from them, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) proposes to his wife Morticia (Charlize Theron) that they embark on a cross-country road trip. They are pursued by a lawyer called Mr. Mustela (Wallace Shawn) and his henchman Pongo (Ted Evans), claiming that Wednesday was switched at birth, is not an Addams, and that her real parents are looking for her—claims that Gomez and Morticia do their best to evade.

Wednesday, Morticia, and Gomez witness Pugsley’s destruction at the Grand Canyon in “The Addams Family 2”

Let’s start with the positives: the character designs, largely inspired by the illustrations in the original comics, are good, with each character possessing a distinct silhouette from the others. And the voice acting is pretty great too, particularly Moretz, who again imbues Wednesday with the cool, morbid sense of curiosity that has made the character such a fan favorite.

But those are about the only genuinely nice things I can think to say about “The Addams Family 2,” a movie that drains virtually all of the morbid fun from these beloved characters, placing them in a story that is somehow even more conventional than the previous one. Even the fish-out-of-water situations inherent in placing a group of individuals who are perpetually pale and dressed like they’re in mourning in sunny places like Miami Beach, Niagara Falls, or Texas aren’t explored to the extent that they could have been. The side of the plot about Wednesday potentially not being an Addams by blood is clumsily handled. The concern that she may be drifting away from her parents feels contrived, and the whole thing devolves into a weird monster battle that still feels less like the kind of weird you’d find in an “Addams Family” project, and more like the kind of weird you’d find in, well, a lot of other movies. Almost every character feels like their personality has been drained to serve this shallow story.

Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) in “The Addams Family 2”

Of course, “The Addams Family 2” is mainly targeting kids and families, and perhaps young kids will enjoy the various characters, especially the suave, nonsense-speaking Cousin It (voiced by Snoop Dog), the colorful environments, and the gags that range from physical to gross. If you’re looking for a 90-minute distraction, “The Addams Family 2” might do the trick. But if you’re looking to seriously introduce your kids to “The Addams Family,” why not start with the original 1960s TV series, which is mildly spooky and innocent in the way that most shows from that era were? I can respect the decision to reboot “The Addams Family” for the modern era, but there’s no reason for these movies to be such a waste.

“The Addams Family 2” is now playing in theaters and is available to watch on demand. Runtime: 93 minutes. Rated PG.

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