‘The Addams Family 2’ Takes a Ghoulishly Amusing Road Trip

In a time when entertainment is becoming more politically correct, the Addams Family takes on a new kind of rebellious edge because they’ve always been outsiders. The whole point of their appeal is how weird and unconventional they are. Then again, your family always feels weirder than everyone else’s. “The Addams Family 2” continues the rebranding of the iconic, ghoulish household as an animated family entertainment. Like its 2019 predecessor, it’s not exactly a standout, but has goofy laughs where you sense the animators were having fun using this material as an excuse to be a little darker.

The Addams kids still try to be participating students at school, so the story begins with gloomy Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) presenting a science project where she manages to implant the intelligence of her pet octopus into Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll). But Wednesday gets supremely annoyed when the school awards every participant an award, because “everyone is special.” The project still catches the eye of enigmatic genius Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader). The pride of the Addams parents, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron), gets shattered when a strange lawyer arrives claiming to have evidence Wednesday might not be their biological daughter. A bit worried, Gomez and Morticia decide to take the family on a cross-country road trip to the happiest place on earth, Death Valley. 

As with the previous movie, “The Addams Family 2” has more chortles than spooks. It’s an animated movie for a crowd whose parents were probably kids when the Barry Sonnenfeld movies premiered in the ‘90s, and whose grandparents watched the original TV show in the ‘60s. Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, who worked on raunchier fare like “Sausage Party,” are once again in charge but don’t get as satirical. In the 2019 movie they used the outsider nature of the Addams to comment on gentrification and staleness of suburbia. This sequel is much more of a whacky romp with a standard message about family bonds. Still, they do take advantage of the attitude of these characters to gleefully poke fun at different subjects. Wednesday bemoans the hyper-positive nature of her school and how it makes everyone a winner. The family’s literal crawling hand Thing takes a bath in hand sanitizer. Addams son Pugsley (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) needs dating advice, which Fester delivers with tips on being as repulsive as possible. There’s even a rather wicked homage to “Carrie” in a scene where Wednesday is forced to enter a Texas beauty pageant and dumps buckets of blood on her annoying, blonde fellow contestants.

Because the plot of “The Addams Family 2” is a typical road trip and chase, mostly involving the mystery of whether Wednesday is truly an Addams, specific set pieces work better with their small charms. Grandma Addams (Bette Midler) is left housesitting the Addams mansion and throws a gothic rave. Snoop Dogg is back and once again nearly unrecognizable as the voice of shaggy relative It, except when he delivers a rap number near the end. There’s also some destructive joy in Pugsley planning the blow up the Grand Canyon. Traveling with the Addams means going to Salem to learn about the witch trials and honor the “martyrs.”  They also render homage to the heroes of The Alamo at a diner that happens to carry the same name. Fester is also easily hypnotized by the sight of Niagara Falls. Visually the movie is a quirky entertainment as the Addams travel in their gothic and elaborate version of an RV, although tall, Frankenstein-like butler Lurch still has to slowly make his way to the gas pump every once in a while. 

One reason this movie still works a little better than it should is because the voice cast all sound like they’re having a great time. Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron let loose as the Addams parents. Isaac again makes Gomez suave and manic, while Theron is dark sophistication. Chloë Grace Moretz knows how to play Wednesday in a style where her misery is hilariously entertaining. Sure, the third act turns into the usual resolution of most animated movies. We learn who the real villain all along was, and it is not a spoiler to say that of course the Addams family stays together. Inevitably the credits must feature the famous song, calling on us to snap our fingers twice. Like the original series, this movie works like a good little episode where we get to spend time with these likeably oddball characters. Adults will grin, kids will get a fairly decent message about how there’s nothing wrong with feeling your family is strange, because there’s no such thing as normal.

The Addams Family 2” releases Oct. 1 on VOD and in theaters nationwide.