Director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon Screenwriter: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen, Susanna Fogel Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Javon Walton, Nick Kroll, Wallace Shawn, Wayne Knight, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Bill Hader Distributor: United Artists Releasing Running Time: 93 min. MPAA: PG

The Addams Family was the darkly comedic family unit that seem perfectly suited for animation. I said as much in my review of the 2019 animated film and I still hold that belief. Just as with that first animated film, however, the kid-friendly animated adaptations by MGM are not exactly suited for the creepy and kooky family. That being said, this film edges closer to the Addams Family better suited for subversion than pop-culture plucking.

There is at least a more Addams-friendly element to the farce. Wednesday Addams (Chloë Grace Moretz) is going through a crisis of feeling like she doesn’t belong much of anywhere. Her school refuses to acknowledge her successful science project of placing animal traits in a human and her family can only grin with blind enthusiasm that often messes up her projects. She starts to suspect that maybe she’s not an Addams at all, going far beyond just the rebellious phase of the first film. And there’s a lot of evidence to support this.

Wednesday is contacted and hounded by a mad scientist who believes that there may have been a mix-up at the hospital and that Wednesday is his daughter. Her parents of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) brush this off as nonsense. However, once Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) reveals his baby juggling antics at the hospital of Wednesday’s birth, doubts start to come forth. Maybe she isn’t an Addams. There’s even some DNA evidence to suggest this.

Amid all of this, the Addams decide to take a road trip vacation for a chance to increase their darkly odd bonding. In true Addams fashion, their highlights feature some level of chaos. A detour to Niagara Falls leads to the Addams enjoying going over the falls in barrels. A view of the Grand Canyon is made all the more grand with Pugsly’s desire to set off explosives in the vast chasm. Even an error in trying to visit the Alamo leads to a beauty pageant that manages to be weird and creepy for its prissy and pristine presentation. Horrifying.

This film is more admirable than the previous Addams Family movie more its components than its delivery. I loved the idea of Fester slowly being transformed into an octopus monster via Wednesday’s experiment. It’s more alluring for the visual gags than the easy jokes about seafood and water. Having Pugsly trying to come on to girls is interesting for a character who usually seems sidelined in Addams Family media. There’s a mini-arc of sorts as he tries to find love, often screwing up thanks to Fester’s lackluster advice about women. You won’t get much more than Pugsly making himself look a fool in front of the girls, sometimes by Wednesday’s hands of torture via voodoo dolls.

The climax resorts to a bit of a mad scientist monster movie plot and the feels fitting. The Addams ultimately come together as someone more evil and chaotic than they could possibly be transformed into a monster and does battle with another monster. It’s an ending that holds a bit more appeal than the standard story of acceptance. That being said, you really do have to sift through a lot of dead-on-arrival gags to get to this point. Simple puns about “having children for dinner” and pop culture references to Talking Heads (portrayed by shrunken heads) land with a thud. The most dreary of these bits is the constant referencing of Cousin Itt being voiced by Snoop Dogg. This aspect was mildly subtle in the previous film but here it’s all but dropped. The obligatory dance sequence, for example, just features Itt dropping the backward garbled voice to sing a Snoop Dogg song.

The Addams Family 2 comes close to that familiar, dark, and absurd family but it’s no cigar for this animated farce. While being a better story than the last animated picture, so many problems still linger. Honestly, the issue has less to do with the writing and characters and more to do with the limitations of animation aimed at kids. There’s clearly some corporate tinkering at play to make this Addams Family safe enough for the young kids, despite kids having been cool with the live-action Addams Family movies that went for the macabre hilarity with gusto. I’m not saying that Wednesday’s reenactment of Carrie during a pageant should have more blood instead of a stand-in for pig’s blood but surely there’s more humor that can be evoked besides lukewarm referencing. The Addams Family are all about subversion but, in animated form, they feel as routine as every other animated film.

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