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No longer spooky, ‘The Addams Family 2’ delivers diminishing returns

In animation voice roles, Oscar Isaac as Gomez Addams, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday Addams, Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams, Conrad Vernon as Lurch, Javon Walton as Pugsley Addams, Bette Midler as Grandma and Snoop Dogg as It in "The Addams Family 2."  (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)
In animation voice roles, Oscar Isaac as Gomez Addams, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday Addams, Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams, Conrad Vernon as Lurch, Javon Walton as Pugsley Addams, Bette Midler as Grandma and Snoop Dogg as It in "The Addams Family 2." (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)
By Katie Walsh Tribune News Service

The 2019 animated feature “The Addams Family” was a cute refresh of the classic Addams Family characters for a new, younger audience. Clocking in at 83 years young (Charles Addams’ cartoons debuted in the New Yorker Magazine in 1938), it’s amazing that the Addamses have the staying power that they do in television and on film.

The new films, shepherded by directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, stay true to the Addams aesthetic in design and sensibility, and the filmmakers have assembled a talented voice cast to embody this macabre and tight-knit family and deliver the darkly punny dialogue that is their hallmark.

The first film struck at the heart of what makes the Addams family unique: the way they embrace being different is actually more inclusive and loving than whatever usually passes for “normal.” That sentiment is repeated in the sequel, “The Addams Family 2,” but the whole endeavor unfortunately delivers diminishing returns.

Lacking in narrative rigor, “The Addams Family 2” is merely a series of loose vignettes knit together by a family road trip format. Patriarch Gomez (Oscar Isaac) is inspired to take the whole crew on a vacation in order to encourage family bonding after Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) starts to feel alienated from the rest of the Addams, embarrassed by their overbearing affections at her school science fair.

The suggestion, perpetrated by a persistent lawyer (Wallace Shawn) in hot pursuit, that Wednesday may have been switched at birth, has her questioning everything. Soon it comes to light that this lawyer has been hired by mysterious mogul Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), but his conviction that Wednesday is his true progeny could be hiding a far more nefarious agenda.

While the family hits Niagara Falls, Sleepy Hollow, Miami Beach, the Alamo and the Grand Canyon, it’s a chance for Wednesday to consider what it truly means to be an Addams. But the plot structure just feels like an opportunity for a series of slapdash sketches with references to other films like “Carrie,” “Top Gun” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” plus, of course, lots of random moments and montages set to pop tunes.

As Wednesday uses a voodoo doll to marionette poor Pugsley (Javon Walton) around to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” the opening bars of the song will send any elderly millennial or Gen-Xer right back to a sticky beer-soaked dive bar, and that nostalgia bait seems the only reason for that sequence to exist.

“The Addams Family 2” feels like it’s lost the spark of the first one. The jokes that felt fresh in the first film are stale here, the story’s twists glaringly predictable. The film boasts five screenwriters, and one can’t help but wonder if this might be a case of just too many cooks in the kitchen. The film could be amusing for a very young set, but, alas, it’s not even spooky enough to truly delight the little horror hound in your life.

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