October 1, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan
Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the U.S., the animated film “The Addams Family 2” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: The ghoulish Addams Family goes on a cross-country road trip, in an effort to create more family bonding, as adolescent daughter Wednesday Addams goes through an identity crisis about her biological origins.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Addams Family” fans, “The Addams Family 2” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching overly cluttered animated films that have a very weak plot.
In the animated film “The Addams Family 2,” the family goes on a road trip while being chased by a lawyer who wants Wednesday Addams’ DNA because he says he needs to prove she’s not biologically related to the Addams Family. That’s all you need to know about how bad this sequel is. You don’t even have to be a familiar with “The Addams Family” franchise to know that the members of this comedically ghoulish clan are supposed to be very tight-knit (despite the occasional inter-family squabbles) precisely because they’re misfits in the real world and have an “us against them” attitude about it. It’s the basis of the comedy of “The Addams Family” franchise, which has included movies and TV shows, both live-action and animated.
“The Addams Family 2” is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, who both also helmed the 2019 animated film “The Addams Family.” Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) is the gloomy, sarcastic and intelligent daughter of cheerful Gomez Addams (voiced by Oscar Isaac) and somber Morticia Addams (voiced by Charlize Theron), who looks and acts like stereotypical witch. With their pale skin and long, straight black hair, Wednesday and Morticia clearly have a physical resemblance to each other and have similar personalities. And yet, “The Addams Family 2” has a very misguided idea to have Wednesday go through an identity crisis just because someone told her that she’s not a true biological member of the family.
Pugsley Addams, who is Wednesday’s goofy pre-teen younger brother, is more like his father Gomez. In “The Addams Family 2,” Pugsley is voiced by Javon “Wanna” Walton, who replaces Finn Wolfhard, who voiced Pugsley in “The Addams Family” 2019 animated movie. Wednesday is such a negative person that she likes to torture and taunt Pugsley with cruel pranks and insults.
Also in the Addams Family are Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll), who is Gomez’s oddball bachelor brother; Cousin It (voiced by Snoop Dogg), a hair-covered character who grunts and raps; and Grandma (voiced by Bette Midler), Gomez’s sassy and free-spirited mother. All of them except for Cousin It live together in the same foreboding mansion up on a hill in an unnamed U.S. city. Cousin It drops in occasionally to visit; he’s not a major character in this movie.
Also living in the household, but not biologically related to the Addams Family, are two servants: a disembodied hand called Thing and a butler named Lurch (voiced by Conrad Vernon), who resembles the Frankenstein monster and who doesn’t talk but makes other sounds to communicate. In the 2019 “The Addams Family” movie, Lurch came to live with the family after Morticia and Gomez got into a car accident with a car that was transporting Lurch to an institution for the criminally insane. Lurch was able to escape, and he was invited to live with the Addams Family as their butler. The Addams Family also has a pet lion named Kitty.
In the beginning of “The Addams Family 2,” the family is gathered to watch Wednesday participate in the Cyrus Strange Foundation Science Fair. She is demonstrating an invention that she created which is intended to have the ability to extract personalities and intelligence and implant them in other beings through DNA. Wednesday is so confident about her invention, she’s sure that she will be declared the science fair’s winner.
As a live experiment to demonstrate how the invention works, Wednesday shows how Uncle Fester can’t solve a Rubik’s cube puzzle, while a smart octopus can solve the puzzle. She then temporarily implants the octopus’ DNA into Uncle Fester, and he’s able to solve the puzzle. However, for the rest of the movie, Uncle Fester becomes a mutant with the physical characteristics of an octopus. It’s one of this movie’s many terrible ideas, in a failed attempt at making this story funny.
The audience is impressed with Wednesday’s experiment. However, Wednesday becomes furious when she finds out that this science fair isn’t going to name a winner, because everyone who participated will get a ribbon as a prize. Wednesday fumes, “How can you be a winner if no one is a loser? Is this the third grade? It does not count!”
Someone who has been watching this science fair from afar is founder Cyrus Strange (voiced by Bill Hader), who appears at the event as a hologram. Cyrus asks Wednesday if she would like to work with him to further develop her invention. Cyrus says he has the money and resources to help her, but she declines his offer.
At home, Wednesday has been showing typical signs of adolescent rebellion. She doesn’t want to join the family when they’re gathered for dinner. She’s been sulking more than usual. And she’s been expressing that she wants more independence from her family, because she thinks her parents are too supportive of her.
Gomez decides the best way to resolve this issue is for the entire family (with Lurch, Thing and Kitty in tow) to go on a road trip together. Grandma will stay behind to look after the house. In typical Addams Family fashion, the black automobile that they’re using for the road trip looks like a combination of a recreational vehicle and a hearse.
Just as the Addams Family is packing up to leave for the trip, an attorney named Mr. Mustela (voiced by Wallace Shawn) shows up to inform the Addams Family that he represents a family in Sausalito, California. Mr. Mustela says that his clients are convinced that their daughter was switched at birth with Wednesday, and Mr. Mustela has arrived to collect Wednesday’s DNA as proof. He wants Wednesday’s DNA, right then and there.
Morticia and Gomez scoff at the idea that Wednesday is not their biological child. They refuse Mr. Mustela’s request and tell him to leave. But is this the last they’ll see of Mr. Mustela? Of course not. With a mute, hulking goon named Pongo as his accomplice, Mr. Mustela follows the Addams Family as they go on their road trip, which takes them to Niagra Falls, Sleepy Hollow, Miami, San Antonio, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Sausalito.
Why in the world would Wednesday and anyone else in her family start to doubt her biological identity? It happens during the road trip, when Uncle Fester confesses that there was a time when he was all alone in the hospital nursery where Wednesday was placed, shortly after Wednesday was born. This story is shown in a flashback.
Even as a baby, Wednesday did not look like other kids. However, Uncle Fester says that he was goofing around in the nursery and he started juggling the babies. Looking back on it, he thinks it’s possible that he could have put some of the babies back in the wrong cribs. However, what’s dumb about this major plot hole of a story is that Wednesday looked so vastly different from the other babies that there’s no way that a seeing person could confuse her with any of the other babies in the room.
As her parents, Gomez and Morticia should know this too, but that doesn’t stop them from having doubts that maybe Wednesday isn’t their biological child. Uncle Fester’s story sends Wednesday into an even more angst-ridden emotional tailspin. For a girl who’s supposed to be scientifically smart, this awful movie suddenly dumbs her down, in service of a poorly conceived story.
“The Addams Family 2” does what a lot of animated sequels do: It takes the characters on a journey to different places, just so it’ll make the movie try to look more adventurous than its predecessor. Sometimes this idea works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of “The Addams Family 2,” it doesn’t work because the entire basis of the “possibly switched at birth” plot is flawed and an insult to how the Addams Family characters are supposed to be.
“The Addams Family 2” also has a bizarre recurring joke of Uncle Fester trying to teach a pre-teen Pugsley how to charm and seduce women. It’s supposed to be funny because Uncle Fester is terrible at dating and has very little experience with romance. But he creepily pressures Pugsley to start looking for a girlfriend who’s close to Pugsley’s age, even though this kid is too young to be dating anyone.
Didn’t any of the filmmakers think how inappropriate and weird this subplot is, considering that Pugsley hasn’t even reached puberty yet? Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen and Susanna Fogel are the four screenwriters for “The Addams Family 2,” so they’re largely to blame for coming up with the awful ideas that plague this movie. However, other chief decision makers (including directors Vernon and Tiernan) were involved in making this movie into a stinking mess, so there’s plenty of blame to go around.
The road trip is just an excuse for the Addams Family to go from location to location and get into various shenanigans along the way. Wednesday is crueler than ever to Pugsley in this movie. For example, in one scene at Niagra Falls, Wednesday has a cursed voodoo doll of Pugsley, which she callously throws into the waterfall, therby making Pugsley plunge into the deadly waterfall with the doll. The movie wants to make viewers laugh at all the physical abuse and attempted murder that’s inflicted on Pugsley, but it’s not slapstick comedy that’s genuinely funny. It’s just plain mean-spirited.
Meanwhile, Grandma is at the mansion, which she has turned into a nightclub-styled party house where she’s charging young people $500 per person for admission. It’s a half-baked idea that’s executed in a mediocre and predictable way. It just recycles a tired joke that an old person partying with young people is automatically supposed to be funny.
“The Addams Family 2” isn’t the worst animated movie you’ll ever see. But it’s offensively bad enough because it had so much potential to be a good movie, considering its generous budget and very talented voice cast. “The Addams Family” movie that preceded it wasn’t great either, but it didn’t wildly go off-track like “The Addams Family 2” does. “The Addams Family 2” is an example of what happens when filmmakers don’t respect a franchise’s characters, and come up with an ill-conceived story that doesn’t ring true to how fans know these characters.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures released “The Addams Family 2” in U.S. cinemas and on VOD on October 1, 2021.