Who would believe one of the quickest rush jobs in our pandemic-era cinematic landscape would end up being The Addams Family 2? After having my curiosity piqued, and ultimately sated, it makes a little more sense. Not even the pandemic could slow down its two-year incubation or keep it completely out of theaters (it’ll be made available digitally day-and-date). And that’s the problem experienced co-directors Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens), Greg Tiernan (Sausage Party), and Laura Brousseau are apparently blinded to. Everything’s rushed, and the plot suffers greatly, amounting to a slapdash, flavor-challenged potpourri borrowing from the essence of other, confidently original animated features. The result is tunnel vision of the worst kind, moving from one point to the next with only space for needless comic absurdity.
It’s a dramatic shift from its comparatively organic predecessor, a 2019 release that wasn’t necessarily as perfect as Shakespeare, but just a hair above mediocre, as the classical Addams clan clashed with urban development and the desire to belong in modern society. This sequel somewhat negates or retcons the prevalence of what came before for a standalone tale brimming with madcap antics and animal experimentation. Addams Family 2 centers the focus on gifted Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose scientific pursuits know no limits, with parents Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) cheering her on.
Of course, she recognizes she’s not like the rest of her oddball family, intellectual with a morbid sense of humor and a high measure of curiosity. After a science fair presentation captures the wrong kind of attention, Gomez realizes his flock, also including brother Fester (Nick Kroll) and younger bro Pugsley (Javon Walton, replacing Finn Wolfhard) is pulling apart. In true panicky dad fashion, he whisks the gang on a cross-country road trip with their target destination being Death Valley, the second happiest place.
Whatever fun is to be found, it’s all with what values out to an overstuffed gag warehouse. Not every yuk lands right, diving deeper into cringe territory than where its predecessor showed minimal restraint. Here, we have stunts on major monuments considerably life-threatening if imitated, sufficient bathroom humor, a very obscure inhibition joke (the risk that comes with having Snoop in your cast), and the mildest form of product placement. Couple with aimless subplots involving lesser family members, and it’s a party of ideas whose full potential is barely scratched.
Anything that happens between this large clan departs as fast as it appears. Even with a small army of talented writers led by Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit (Detective Pikachu), time was no one’s friend, loading a brisk 94 minutes with too many ideas to play with, and too little room to breathe. Performances aren’t that affected, even if Isaac’s Gomez will never overshadow the bravado of the late Raul Julia. Vocal power can only carry a role so far, and Isaac at least has that in his favor. Kroll’s silliness is delightfully infectious, and Bette Midler’s reprisal of the grandmother character adds some class.
It’s with Moretz’s dry wit and unapologetic point of view propelling her portrayal of a conflicted daughter into the spotlight. At one point, literally. While the family dodges a very random threat in scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), who claims there’s a unique link between himself and Wednesday. He and dad Rupert (Wallace Shawn) follow on the Addams’ heels, as she questions her place in the family. Such is growing up, but never could it possibly be this weird, or frenetic, or biologically irresponsible. Like a mild hybrid rehash between A Goofy Movie, Emperor’s New Groove, and a thin shred of Hotel Transylvania logic. Hader’s a fair proponent of that chaotic, unoriginal energy Tiernan and Vernon are raising, though it’s far from his strongest animated work; that still goes to Inside Out.
Time is just deconstructed, and not spent well here. Viewing Addams Family 2, that much is more than obvious. Moretz leads a capable cast, and the animation remains exemplary, giving heightened personality to Charles Addams’ original comics. But otherwise, better sticking to a rental on the small screen, given the choice between that or a hard-top 16-screener matinee. To those families who enjoyed the first more than I could, and there’s a part of me willing to openly appreciate its boldness to bring this family or franchise back in the mainstream, they’ll find the fun quickly in this second act. I couldn’t, eventually exhausted by this collection of endless jokes without substance, and ideas unable to connect. This spooky season, I’m certain we can do much better. (D+; 2/5 Horns Up!)
The Addams Family 2 arrives in theaters and at home via most digital retailers October 1; rated PG for macabre and rude humor, violence, and language; 93 minutes.