Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 12, 2022)
2019 brought a new animated iteration of The Addams Family. Was it a smash hit? Nope, but it did enough to generate a sequel, 2021’s blandly titled The Addams Family 2.
Adolescent daughter Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) starts to grow apart from her family, so father Gomez (Oscar Issac) seeks a way to renew the bond.
Gomez decides to take the entire clan – which also includes mother Morticia (Charlize Theron), son Pugsley (Javon Walton), brother Fester (Nick Kroll), and servants Lurch (Conrad Vernon) and Thing – on a road trip. Along the way, complications arise, most of which connect to the claims from famed scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader) that Wednesday is actually his biological child.
I found 1991’s Addams Family to offer solid entertainment, but outside of a few good moments, 1993’s Addams Family Values worked less well. The 2019 animated Addams Family fell between those two, as it gave us a moderately enjoyable movie but nothing special.
Though I hoped Family 2 might surpass its immediate predecessor, that fails to occur. Like the 2019 flick, the sequel does enough to keep us amused, but it never threatens to excel.
The Addams Family animated flicks seem more based on the 1990s movies than on the original cartoons or the 1960s TV series. This feels especially true due to the way the new movies elevate Wednesday to such a prominent role.
Not that Wednesday lacked much to do in the pre-1990s efforts, but Christina Ricci’s droll deadpan performance in the 1991 flick became arguably its most popular element. This led Wednesday to a larger role in Family Values and then to turn into a focal point of the 2019 tale.
Actually, that flick covered the various characters in a semi-balanced manner, with only a moderate emphasis on Wednesday. As my synopsis indicates, this changes for Family 2, as it puts Wednesday more firmly in the lead.
That said, no one should expect a particularly coherent and concise narrative from Family 2. Despite the theme about whether or not Wednesday is a member of the family, the movie really offers a series of comedic events more than a story
Honestly, the “road trip” conceit seems mostly like an excuse to send the family to a bunch of notable locations. It doesn’t really use these as well as they could, so don’t expect particularly clever usage of the tourist spots.
Outside of the Wednesday plot, Family 2 comes with a fair number of story threads that don’t really go much of anywhere, like Pugsley’s desire to appeal to girls or Fester’s transformation into an octopus. The movie tends to toss out character threads willy-nilly without much commitment beyond immediate laughs.
And these succeed to a reasonable degree, even if the movie doesn’t really function as a coherent story. The Wednesday narrative motivates a lot of action but doesn’t turn into anything especially strong on its own.
I can’t help but wonder if the filmmakers took a lot of inspiration from 1985’s classic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The Addams clan visits the Alamo – sort of – as well as a biker bar.
Heck, they even win over the inhabitants of the latter with an improbable musical performance. Family 2 doesn’t become a clone of Big Adventure, but I find it tough to believe it didn’t act as an influence.
Of course, Family 2 can’t compete with the inspired lunacy of the 1985 flick, though the actors do their best. Expect for Pugsley – voiced by Finn Wolfhard in 2019 and Javon Walton here – all the principals return, with new additions Hader and Wallace Shawn.
The returning performers do fine, and I actually like Moretz more here than in the first flick. Back in 2019, she seemed to try too hard to emulate Ricci’s work, but for Family 2, Moretz settles more into her own take on the character.
All of this leads to a moderately enjoyable animated adventure but not anything I’d call great. Though the movie brings a likable and watchable affair, it never develops into anything more dynamic than that.
Footnote One: a gag in the film offers a wink at Stephen King’s Carrie, and Moretz starred in the 2013 adaptation of the story.
Coincidence? Probably not.
Footnote Two: the missing Wolfhard played young Richie Tozier in the recent version of Stephen King’s It, while Hader portrayed the adult version of the role.
Coincidence? Almost certainly.