The Addams Family 2 Review: A Sequel That's Better Off Dead

Why does "The Addams Family 2" exist? The short answer is that the 2019 animated film, the latest adaptation of the classic Gothic-style comics, did unexpectedly well at the box office, making just over $200 million worldwide on a fairly bare-bones budget. "The Addams Family" tried its hardest to drag the dryly dark family into the 21st century, and only approached tolerability thanks to the spirited voice work of Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron as Gomez and Morticia Addams. The good news about the sequel, arriving in theaters and on VOD simultaneously due to the pandemic, is that both Isaac and Theron have returned. But even as the first animated film felt a little sweaty in its storytelling, this is painfully, flat-out desperate.

The entire story can be boiled down into one question: What if Wednesday Addams (voiced again by Chloë Grace Moretz) wasn't actually a biological member of the Addams family? Wednesday has grown more and more tired and frustrated with her parents' interest in her life, committing grievous sins such as attending a school science fair where she reveals her prowess with combining animal and human DNA. Gomez, meanwhile, decides that it's time to shake both Wednesday and Pugsley (now voiced by Javon Walton, taking over for Finn Wolfhard) out of their doldrums, so he and Morticia take them on a country-wide road trip. It's also so that the parents can shake off the fervent advances of a meddling lawyer (Wallace Shawn) who's convinced that Wednesday isn't an Addams at all, but was accidentally switched at birth thanks to the goofy machinations of Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll).

The best thing about "The Addams Family 2" is the group of actors brought together to voice the Addams. (They are, it's worth noting, just about the only cast members here anyway. Aside from Shawn, there's Bill Hader as a respected scientist with some mysterious plans up his sleeve, but that's basically it — no doubt an offshoot of producing a full-length animated feature during a pandemic.) Isaac cuts a much more dashing figure in real life than his animated Gomez, who's as squat as the illustrator Charles Addams once drew him, but the well-loved star of "Inside Llewyn Davis" and the upcoming "Dune" dives into the role of Gomez with gusto. He can't quite replace the late Raul Julia, who did a phenomenal job of playing Gomez in the '90s-era live-action films, but he's still a lot of fun to listen to. And both Theron and Moretz hit a sweet spot of dryly morose humor in their performances.

An Afterthought of a Story

It's almost as if the people who made the first animated "Addams Family," including the sequel's directors, Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, simply weren't expecting to make a sequel quite so quickly. (The turnaround is remarkably fast.) The entire story feels fairly slapped together, with yet another odd array of jokes and references that seem pitched at such a specific subset of audience that it's hard to see the film appealing even to the parents who may have begrudgingly been dragged to the theater, or are sitting in the same room as their kids if they rented it at home. One gag in which Fester wears a shark fin features a direct callback to Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," down to a dolly zoom shot recalling a similar shot in the 1975 classic. And then there's an extended musical sequence scored to a cover of "I Will Survive" at a country-Western bar. The gags are so strange because they rarely approach intentional humor, as opposed to just being referential for the sake of being referential.

The same is true of some of the dialogue, which is largely as frustrating as it was in the first animated film, with modern references shoehorned in simply to call attention to themselves. Here, though many such groaners exist, likely the dumbest offender is when Wednesday explains away her natural disinterest in public affection by saying, "I've been social distancing since birth." There's no point in attempting to grasp the logic of the line, since the pandemic doesn't seem to exist in this movie's world. But hey, we all know that phrase now, so why not throw it in for a hopeful easy laugh, right? Right? 

It's the right time of year for "The Addams Family 2". Kicking off the month of October with a return from a family that audiences have enjoyed in one form or another for decades is a step in the right direction. But this movie is otherwise many steps backward. It's hard enough for any new iteration of the Addams Family to follow in the footsteps of the remarkably funny, acidic live-action films from director Barry Sonnenfeld. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston were brilliant there as Gomez and Morticia Addams, and Christina Ricci was a real find as the young Wednesday. 

Casting-wise, you don't get much better these days than Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, and Chloe Grace Moretz. They all sound right. Calling back to the original illustrations for the character design is the right move. But those are the right moves the first movie made. "The Addams Family 2" makes exceedingly few right moves, feeling tossed-off right to the very end, when the unforgettable theme song plays over a hand-drawn style of animation instead of the computer animation of the previous 85 minutes. That theme song is memorable in any form. This movie is not.

/Film Rating: 2 out of 10