The Addams Family 2

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The 2019 Addams Family brought the clan to life via animation – a perfect medium to pay tribute to Charles Addams' beloved creation. It was funny, maintaining the macabre humor adults have come to expect, while still keeping it PG enough to introduce a new generation of kids to the property. That drove the picture to a $100 million domestic gross. Now comes the inevitable sequel, and what a letdown it is. Despite having the same creative team, The Addams Family 2 feels like it was made by people who have no clue what makes these characters so popular.

The focus is on Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz). There's a brilliant-yet-demented scientist named Cyrus (Bill Hader) who thinks she may be his biological daughter. A pesky social worker (Wallace Shawn) keeps poking around with information pertaining to this, so Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) decide to elude him by taking everyone on an impromptu road trip. Wednesday isn't wild about the idea, but Pugsley (Javon Walton) and Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) are totally into it.

The Addams Family 2 makes two fundamental mistakes. The first is taking the clan out of their environment. Observing their twisted lifestyle is a major part of what's funny about them. The group's existence looks kind of familiar, but everything has a darkly comedic slant. Watching the Addamses cavorting around Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon is far less amusing because the screenplay has to contrive things for the characters to do in these locations. Forced humor of that variety is painful to sit through.

The other mistake is having them interact with people who are equally as bizarre as they are. Cyrus is a wacky figure, as is the social worker, as is the social worker's Lurch-like assistant. If there's a central conceit to the Addams family, it's that they shock and appall normal folks. Without that contrast, comedy cannot exist. Put another way, when everyone's weird, no one is weird. The Addams Family 2 doesn't seem to understand that basic fact. Consequently, the story just grows increasingly manic as it goes on, with layer after layer of eccentricity building to absolutely nothing worthwhile.

Such miscalculations almost immediately sink the movie. A couple stray laughs can be found in the first few minutes. Then, once everyone hits the road, laughter comes to a screeching halt. Even worse than that is the climax, with Cyrus and Wednesday meeting face-to-face. It combines outrageous mayhem with a sappy, obvious message about the bonds that connect people. The message feels hollow because the film has undermined the “family” element by spending an abundance of time on lame hijinks rather than familial dynamics.

The all-star voice cast is fine, as is the animation. Otherwise, The Addams Family 2 is an enormous disappointment, as well as an unfortunate betrayal of the appealing characters Charles Addams lovingly created.

out of four

The Addams Family 2 is rated PG for macabre and rude humor, violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.