Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) are distraught that their children are growing up, skipping family dinners, and totally consumed with "scream time." To reclaim their bond, they decide to cram Wednesday (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), Pugsley (Javon 'Wanna' Walton), Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and the crew into their haunted camper and hit the road for one last miserable family vacation. What could possibly go wrong? (from Universal Pictures)
As a kid in the 80's, I grew up watching reruns of The Addams Family, that creepy and kooky ghoulish family. The show had run in the mid-60's, but it had actually spawned from a comic series that cartoonist Charles Addams had created back in 1938. The beloved macabre and morbid family has seen many iterations over the decades that have followed, the latest of which started with a new computer-animated feature film in 2019, with animation designs inspired by Charles Addams' own drawings. (Something I actually didn't realize before researching their history for this review.) I had missed the 2019 movie, but when Universal sent us The Addams Family 2 for review, they graciously hooked us up with the first one for context.
2019's The Addams Family is an interesting reimagining of the series, with heavy leanings on dark and gross imagery to fuel the humor. At times, it could be rather witty, but overall, the movie kind of fell flat. But it's one of those things where you just can't place your finger on what's quite missing. The filmmakers used the fish-out-of-water family to drive home the message that being different is okay, so with 2021's follow-up, The Addams Family 2, the studio and creative team double down on that message. It's becoming a bit tired to find almost every animated movie pushing that these days, but I suppose it's not necessarily a bad message. (The only problem it may create is that, in the midst of encouraging our differences, we start to lose sight of when a "difference" can be "wrong." But, I suppose that's a loaded topic for a review of a movie like The Addams Family.)
The animation for The Addams Family 2, character design aside (which is an acquired taste; you're either going to like it or hate it), is pretty good. Unlike Illumination's The Grinch from a few years ago, which was able to create the most eye-popping detail amidst a cartoony world, the brilliance of the animation for The Addams Family 2 doesn't really reveal itself until Kitty Kat is digging in the sand on the beach, or we get to see the crisp ripples in the water. But the world of The Addams Family definitely has a look all its own. The macabre nature of the characters lends a darkness to these movies, which is only counteracted by some goofy humor -- usually from Pugsley, Gomez and Uncle Fester. The Addams Family 2 is surely less dark than the 2019 film, but there are still some gross-out or freaky moments. When Gomez asks Fester to tip a man, he pulls out three severed fingers and gives him one (we later see that one again). The creepiest moment, however, is probably when Wednesday's eyes roll back and become completely white as she tells a girl every thought she is thinking. There are other borderline unsettling gags, but they are still less this time around than the first movie.
It was a bold move to have The Addams Family 2 center around Wednesday. ChloŽ Grace Moretz deliberately delivers all of Wednesday's lines in an apathetic, monotone and dead pan manner, which suits the character appropriately. However, to kind of make that character the center of the story for us to follow their journey, it's easy to feel disconnected from the character. And that's probably the toughest part about this iteration of The Addams Family. The lot are so bizarre or dark that it's hard to feel invested in their story. Oscar Isaac is almost unrecognizable voicing Gomez Addams, but he gives the character a very passionate performance; he may be the most standout of the characters. Charlize Theron also delivers with Morticia Addams, and does a fantastic job. Nick Kroll gives the weird Uncle Fester an appropriately quirky performance, but I found his character design - although taking after the original comic drawings - unappealing. The rest of the cast is decent, too - although I missed Finn Wolfhard's Pugsley from the 2019 movie, as he was replaced by Javon 'Wanna' Walton (apparently because Finn's voice changed).
The Addams Family 2's plot centers around the idea that Wednesday may have been switched at birth and not really be an Addams. It feels rather far-fetched, even for an animated film, since she so clearly fits in with the family. Still, the movie keeps you guessing up until its weird kaiju-battling finale, and gives some conflict for the Addams to overcome. Meanwhile, in an effort to try to get their family to spend more time with each other, Gomez whisks them all away on a camper across the country to see the sights. It's a fun idea to follow them on the road together (but didn't they kind of do this idea in the Hotel Transylvania sequels? I never saw past the first film, I think, but I remember seeing a trailer with them out of their element on vacation); some of the movie's best moments come while they're interacting with familiar locations around the country. Overall, the story is okay, but nothing extraordinary, making the movie not especially memorable.
Adding on to the content mentioned earlier, there isn't much by way of "language," as mentioned in the MPAA rating, aside from two fleeting mentions of the slang term "balls" for the male genitals. One comes when Fester is falling down the stairs and exclaims "Ow! My balls!" and later, someone comments "Right in the Niagara balls!" when Fester crashes into the water over the falls. Otherwise, there isn't any other language. The violence is comedic usually, but it's suggested that Wednesday may have killed a man when we see him hanging over the Grand Canyon and then later see the ropes undone and she remarks that she "let him go," but it's unclear as we never see the character again after that. Wednesday also uses a voodoo doll of Pugsley to torment him throughout the movie, and that concept alone may unsettle some viewers. The finale involves two mutated people as large monsters - an octopus and a farm animal hybrid - who fight each other in a lab. It definitely may disturb especially the younger viewers.
Overall, The Addams Family 2 is an okay family film, but its dark nature and offbeat comedy is definitely an acquired taste. I'm sure with a better script, the movie could really stand out as something special, but as it is, The Addams Family 2 lacks and isn't among the better family movies of 2021.
In the "Bonus" section of the Blu-Ray, there are three special features with a Play All option.
We're All Together Addams (8:51) focuses on the movie's central cast and shows footage of the actors in the studio recording or practicing lines, as well as being interviewed. The movie's producer and actors talk about the tight family that the Addams are. (1 "cr*p")
Courage To Be Kooky (2:41) has the cast and crew talking about the message of The Addams Family 2 and how it is about accepting who you are, and being different and unique.
The Addams Family Road Trip Checklist (4:04) - The last bonus feature is more geared towards the kids. It starts out with a checklist of Addams-related items to pack for a road trip. From there, it has suggested foods, as well as a recipe for a snack called "Fruit Monsters." Finally, it talks about a road trip game you can play called "Going to the Crypt" and teaches you how to play it.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 1/17/22)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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