The 2019 The Addams Family film served as a safe entry point for introducing children to the macabre. Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon’s animated film was able to capture the essence of the hit television series, while still conveying a family friendly message that it is okay to be different. While not a deep film by any means, it at least understood that the comedic beats worked best when the Addams interacted with “normal” society.
Their antics may have seemed strange to outsiders, however, the bond they shared always felt stronger when juxtaposed against others. One would assume that having the family hit the open road in the sequel would offer plenty of opportunites to further exploit this proven formula. Unfortunately, this is not the case in The Addams Family 2 as the film inexplicably keeps the Addams contained to themselves for a good portion of their journey across America.
After receiving a disappointing “everyone wins” participation prize at the National Science Fair sponsored by famed scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), a despondent Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) wants nothing more than the be left alone for a few hours. Rather than respecting his daughters wishes, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) begins smoothering Wednesday with attention which only pushes her away further. Bothered that their children are spending less time with them, Gomez and Morticia (Charlize Theron) decide that it is time to pack up the family camper and take the clan – including Pugsley (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton), Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), Cousin It (Snoop Dogg), Lurch (voiced by Vernon) and Thing – on a bonding road trip across the American landscape.
Their journey is dampened even before it gets started when a lawyer, Mr. Mustela (Wallace Shawn), arrives at their front door claiming to represent a client who believes Wednesday was switched at the hospital at birth. Unwilling to consider that their daughter might not actually be theirs, Gomez and Morticia’s attempt to conceal their secret from the family, a task that gets harder with each new destination they reach on their trip.
Much of the comedy in The Addams Family 2 revolves around the Addams visiting famous landmarks (e.g. Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, etc.) while Gomez and Morticia try to evade Mr. Mustela. The problem with this is that the family is often confined to interacting with themselves rather than making meaningful connections with the places they visit or the people they encounter there. As a result, each iconic location they stop at comes across as nothing more than unnecessary filler. Further proof of this can be found when observing the family’s lifeless antics, which are not as outlandish as they are meant to be, at each locale.
While Tiernan and Vernon pepper the film with a slew of cinematic references for adults, which span from Friday the 13th to Little Miss Sunshine to Godzilla, this inadvertently reinforces how thin the overall premise is. For example, there is a subplot involving Grandma (Bette Midler) hosting a house party, where people pay hundreds of dollars to attend, while the Addams are away that goes nowhere. By time the central mystery behind Mr. Mustela’s client is finally revealed one has already lost interest in the journey.
The filmmakers are clearly banking on young kids ignoring the plot and simply being satisfied with the slapstick humour, but even that is not enough to maintain their interest throughout. Less engaging than its charming predecessor, The Addams Family 2 is not a road trip worth taking.