They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and...just like us? Like so many animated movies these days, The Addams Family 2 takes dark, subversive and ghostly characters and renders them human. The enduring appeal of the Addams Family is how unique they are. With four loose screws, a Victorian mansion, a couple black dresses and some bone-dry sarcasm, one can easily distinguish the Gothic clan from any other household. No longer.
Since Morticia's 1938 debut on the pages of the New Yorker, in a cartoon drawn by Charles Addams, the Addams Family has been gentrified in every way possible: in video games, spin-offs, feature films, dozens of commercials, and now, two animated movies directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, and written by Matt Lieberman, Pamela Patter and Eric Rivinoja.
The Addams Family aren't even outcasts anymore-- they are on a cross-country-road-trip just like everyone else. They may not be driving a minivan--they're driving a three-story hearse-- but all their jokes, arguments, miscues and missed opportunities are terrifyingly commonplace.
The journey is padded with familiar gags (most of which don't work), and the voice cast sounds like they're on cruise control. Chloe Grace Moretz voices the monotone daughter, Wednesday, while Javon Walton lends his particular brand of droll to Pugsely. Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac offer up low-energy performances as Morticia and Gomez, respectively, the mom and pap in charge.
In this particular installment, Wednesday yearns to break free and find out why she is different from her super-stale, super-kooky family. She tries to solve the mystery at her school's science fair, where she experiments on a baby octopus and separates its "weird" genes from its “normal” ones. Her experiment catches the eye of a mad scientist (Bill Hader), who sends his henchman, a Larry David look-a-like, to track down Wednesday and convince her that she is his daughter.
It's not exactly a full-proof plan (a henchman who looks like Larry David isn't going to do much), but it's enough to scare Gomez into taking a cross-country-road-trip, from Miami to Death Valley, as a way of distancing Wednesday from her would-be-father (Cyrus).
Along the way, Wednesday is broken down (by Cyrus) and lifted up (by Gomez) and learns to embrace herself, triumphantly accepting her quirks and using them to save her family from eminent danger. It's the kind of Self Esteem 101 you might expect from a film about rebellious teens. It's nice, but there's no wrinkle or twist that might separate it from the hundreds of other movies about kids who feel different from their parents.
For a film about American Gothic oddballs, one hopes for something wackier, weirder, ballsier. But The Addams Family 2 is so commercial--literally, you can buy the toys at Target--and average that it feels like watching reruns of other animated movies. It sets out to be exactly what the source material set out not to be: normal.
Movie Score: 2/5