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edge staff writer


‘The Addams Family 2’ hits the road

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You never know what will have pop cultural staying power. For every bit of creative content that maintains a place in the consciousness, hundreds upon hundreds more disappear into the scrap heap of zeitgeist detritus.

It seems unlikely that Charles Addams knew what he had birthed when the first images of his macabre “Addams Family” graced the pages of The New Yorker back in 1938. But those darkly humorous pieces led to a popular television show, which in turn led to a popular series of films, then to another TV show and a Broadway musical and now an animated film franchise.

The latest iteration of the creepy, kooky titular family is “The Addams Family 2,” a sequel to 2019’s “The Addams Family.” These animated films aim to strike the balance between kid-friendliness and staying true to the spirit of the source material. As to how successful they are, well … your mileage may vary.

There’s a lot to like here – the voice cast is outstanding and the character design nicely evokes the original cartoons without being derivative. That said, the script leaves something to be desired, with a relative dearth of narrative action padded by musical numbers that, while cute enough, feel kind of incongruous. Still, it has its charms – enough to make it worth your time.

Things are at a bit of a crossroads with the Addams Family. Young Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) is growing apart from her parents, devoting her time to solitude and science projects. Despite her best efforts, though, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) refuse to be pushed away, even going so far as to show up at Wednesday’s school science fair, her younger brother Pugsley (Javon Walton) in tow.

Her project is about genetic transfers that allow traits to be passed between species – her experiment involves a Rubik’s Cube-solving octopus and her Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) – and is impressive enough that it gets the attention of noted scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader). Not enough attention to prevent the whole thing from devolving into an everybody-gets-a-ribbon situation, but still.

In an effort to promote some familial bonding, Gomez proposes that the family go on a cross-country road trip in an (appropriately Addams) RV. Good old Lurch (Conrad Vernon) loads everything up and Gomez leaves the keys with Grandmama (Bette Midler). As they prepare to leave, they’re approached by a Mr. Mustela (Wallace Shawn), a lawyer representing the hospital where Wednesday was born; apparently, there was possibly a mix-up in the newborn ward and she may not be an Addams at all.

And then, we’re off.

We hit a bunch of the standard Americana touristy spots – Niagara Falls, the Alamo, the Grand Canyon – and go through a variety of hijinks. They’re being pursued by Mr. Mustela and a henchman – turns out his actual employer is Cyrus Strange, who has some nefarious plans.

Wednesday’s doubts continue to grow, leaving her to question her connection to her family and whether she might actually be meant to be somewhere else. Along the way, Pugsley tries to learn to talk to girls, Uncle Fester is steadily turning into an octopus and back at home, Grandmama is throwing some kind of massive house party. Oh, and Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg) shows up to talk nonsense and spit bars.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with “The Addams Family 2.” All in all, a pleasant watch. I think the biggest issue is that it just isn’t spooky enough. Nor does it fulfill my expectations regarding how creepy, kooky and mysterious it should be. The sense of macabre humor that makes these characters so engaging, while not totally absent, is a little lacking. There are moments where we get the right kind of weird – the Fester transformation is enjoyably icky, for instance – just not enough of them.

Instead, we spend just a little too much time with musical numbers – pop songs and dance numbers and the like. While I understand the impulse to seek out that kind of crossover appeal, we just go to that well a time or two too many, particularly when you’re talking about a movie with just a 93-minute runtime. They’re fun, but they’re too frequent.

One of the big things that this movie has going for it is that the characters really do look of a piece with the original Charles Addams cartoons, giving us just the right hint of grotesquerie. It’s just too bad that the setting they’re in doesn’t better reflect them; the choices of locales feel off – there’s so much roadside weirdness in America, and yet the filmmakers went far more middle-of-the-road.

Of course, that middle-of-the-roadness might be the point. It does allow for the bizarre Addams crew to be set against more or less regular folks (and it does lead to a couple of solid set pieces including a beauty pageant sequence that’s a highlight and a corny running gag that I absolutely loved). Still, it feels like a missed opportunity.

They sound right as well, thanks to the efforts of the cast. Oscar Isaac is a smarmy delight as the ever-swooning Gomez, while Charlize Theron’s winking dourness is wonderful for Morticia. Moretz does a sort of goth supergenius Daria thing, while Walton doesn’t really get anything to do. Kroll sounds like he’s having the time of his life, perfect for a joyful weirdo like Uncle Fester. Midler is good, albeit woefully underused. Bill Hader has yet to disappoint me in a voiceover role – the streak continues. And hey – any animated film is made better by the presence of Wallace Shawn. Cousin Itt’s dialogue is altered, of course, but we still get Snoop Dogg, thanks to Itt’s performance of Snoop’s song from the soundtrack (what, they’re going to cast Snoop Dogg and NOT have a song?).

“The Addams Family 2” doesn’t quite get to where it wants to go, but it winds up in a pleasant enough place. Even if there are a few issues, there’s a lot to like – it looks great, there are some solid gags and the cast is having a blast. You’ll have fun … even if it maybe isn’t quite as ooky as you’d like.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Friday, 01 October 2021 11:49


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