If you’ve seen The Addams Family, the 2019 animated revival of Charles Addams’ ghoulish cartoons, then the disappointments of The Addams Family 2 won’t be surprising. This predictable and bland sequel, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, follows the not-so-grisly family on their first road trip. Maybe it’s because the film’s production, like so many others, was interrupted by COVID-19, or maybe its creators think that younger audiences are less astute viewers, but there’s something about this sequel that just isn’t working.
The film opens with its best and arguably only funny character, Wednesday Addams (voiced marvelously by Chloë Grace Moretz), competing in a school science fair. The homicidal genius daughter of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) begins her presentation with a thinly veiled jab at her family. The lines themselves are nothing spectacular, but its Moretz’s delivery — deliberate, sharp, and with a refreshing confidence — that makes the flick’s opening moments feel promising. In the audience, cheering her on, are Wednesday’s painfully enthusiastic parents and her brother, Pugsley (Javon Walton), willfully ignoring her request for them to stay away from the event.
The Addams Family 2
Wednesday, along with every other kid who participated, wins the science fair, much to her chagrin. At the end of the ceremony, she meets the man — well, his hologram — who funds the whole enterprise: Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader). He and Wednesday bond over their shared passion for innovation and the fact that they are better (read: smarter) than other people.
The Addams Family 2’s problems begin after the science fair, when Gomez and Morticia decide that the family will go on a road trip. Their kids are growing up too fast, skipping family dinner and, as teens do, preferring to spend more time alone. Wednesday, especially, seems to become more disdainful of her parents each day, and is grappling with bigger questions about who she is. Pugsley, on the other hand, has taken a keen interest in girls and is leaning on Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) for advice.
The three-week road trip, which will take them from their home in New Jersey to Death Valley, California, would have been a good opportunity for the film to amp up satirical observations about American life, but it does nothing of the sort. In fact, from Niagara Falls to Miami and on to the Grand Canyon, what happens at each destination feels like more of the same. The members of the family barely interact with other people, and when they do, both the “normie” Americans and the Addams family are rendered in a way that barely piques interest. How many jokes about vapid, selfie-taking tourists can you have before it all gets old?
Of course, this wouldn’t be an Addams family trip without some chaos. And so the screenwriters insert a half-baked plot point that I think is meant to highlight Wednesday’s feelings of isolation and journey to self-discovery. Right before the family embarks on their trip, a mysterious lawyer (Wallace Shawn) approaches Gomez and Morticia, claiming that Wednesday is not their biological daughter. He demands a DNA test, which they refuse. At first they think the man has been hired by Wednesday herself, a clever ruse on their daughter’s part to escape the need to bond with the family, but of course it’s bigger and more sinister than that.
At 93 minutes, The Addams Family 2 feels longer than it actually is, and nothing, not even the new music from contemporary stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Maluma, helps it move any faster. Part of the problem is that even with a relatively well-constructed script (there is a bit of a timeline snafu near the end), the film itself is mostly boring. The one-liners are more corny than clever. I cringed at an interaction between characters where the following sentences were exchanged: “This plant slaps,” says one person. “No, darling, she snaps,” responds the other.
There seems to be a quest both in The Addams Family and in The Addams Family 2 to make the once spine-chilling family relatable, and that’s a shame. In past incarnations, including the 1960s live-action TV series, what has made Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday and Pugsley fun to watch is the way they’re so not relatable in their acerbic humor and deadpan delivery of too-cruel-it’s-hilarious jokes. What these films do is turn them into every other family at the center of an amusing and slightly self-aware comedy. And really, where is the fun in that?