Building on 2019’s solidly entertaining animated entry, “The Addams Family 2” remains kooky and fun, yet it lacks the warmth from the previous film and feels more juvenile, too. The animated family is still entertaining to watch, but the story is directed at younger viewers, this time lacking some cohesiveness and fine-tuning to the storytelling.
Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) enters a very Addams-like project at her school’s humdrum science fair, and despite her asking parents Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) not to make an appearance, they show up, loud and proud. Wednesday has figured out how to share personality traits between creatures by using fragments of their DNA in a drink, a discovery that attracts the attention of wealthy tech genius Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader).
Her school, on the other hand, prefers to award every child with a participation trophy, and as a result, Wednesday’s disappointment (and maybe a little clinical depression) makes her withdraw from her parents, especially after an annoying lawyer (Wallace Shawn) shows up with the news that Wednesday might not be an Addams after all.
Pugsley (Javon Walton), for his part, is still blowing things up, but he’s struggling when it comes to figuring out how to talk to girls. He’s awkward and fumbling, particularly compared to his smooth-talking father, so Gomez appoints Fester (Nick Kroll) to help him out. It doesn’t go so well. With both kids growing up swiftly, and a dark cloud looming regarding Wednesday’s parentage, Gomez and Morticia decide to take the family on a cross-country road trip to the country’s spookiest sights.
There are five credited screenwriters adapting Charles Addams’ iconically ghoulish characters, and while a team of scripters isn’t necessarily unusual (especially in animation), the film’s chaotic attempt to blend several ideas into one cohesive story doesn’t work. The writing feels segmented and episodic; rather than provide a full story, they’ve created a few connected scenes with gags that only truly work if you’re a child under 12.
In contrast to the previous animated “Addams Family,” the story lacks the warmth that usually comes with this zany clan. Gomez and Morticia remain glamorous and hot for each other after many decades, and they adore their little weird bunch, but we don’t really feel it this time around. Instead of building on the emotional theme of parents and children growing apart — with one heading into adolescence while the other questions her parentage — the “Addams Family 2” writers seem to have forgotten that young viewers can grasp deep emotional arcs, like families trying to reconnect with each other.
The voice cast once again immerses themselves smoothly in their roles. Isaac’s Gomez voice is every bit Gomez and prompts the question as to why Isaac has yet to play a Latino role outside of animation. Theron’s Morticia is full of intensity, dry humor, and style, bringing liveliness to one of the less active characters. As Wednesday, Moretz carries the film through its best moments, although the entire ensemble mixes well and injects the proceedings with most of the joy on display.
Returning co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (“Sausage Party”) don’t bring much new this time around, and that works as a detriment to the animated Addamses. Family life is about growth and growing together as a unit. Wednesday and the focus on her coming-of-age questions are definitely on the right track for where the family could conceivably go from here, but the filmmakers would be wise to remember that any growing pains their characters are experiencing are matched by the kids that will be watching the movie.
It’s clear within minutes that Wednesday’s journey is the emotional glue for “The Addams Family 2,” but no glue can stick when there’s too much lint (or in this case, distracting puns and juvenile slapstick) on the surface.
“The Addams Family 2” opens in U.S. theaters and streams on-demand Friday.