Movie Review: “The Addams Family 2” is a beautifully animated stiff

One cannot help but be struck by what a beautifully animated film “The Addams Family 2” is.

From the photo-realistic scenery (including The Grand Canyon), the sheen on Gomez Addams’ hair and suit, the marvelous baroque-meets-art-deco design of the family RV, the cute visual take on Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoon characters down to the ghostly-ghoul buttons on Uncle Fester’s overcoat, Cinesite Animation really outdid itself here.

The story, a sort of Wednesday’s tween rebellion inspires a cross country family road trip? Sure. Fine.

But the sight gags and one-liners? There’s barely a laugh in the thing, and I’m not kidding about that.

A Big Name Voice Cast has almost nothing even faintly amusing to say or play. The overall tone is pleasantly light, but the giggles are all gone.

I almost chuckled when Morticia (Charlize Theron) lectures Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) about diving into dinner.

“Fester, now, let’s wait for the children.”

“Children? I thought we were having CHICKEN?”

And the best sight gag, a variation of one edited out of the original film, has Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) finding a fresh way to torture brother Pugsley (Javon Walton, this time) at the beach. That elaborate sand sculpture she’s luring him into?

It’s a guillotine made of sand.

The first act sets up Wednesday’s general disdain for all things “family,” Gomez in a panic over it, Wednesday’s school science fair experiment attracting the attentions of a tech billionaire (Bill Hader, wasted in the part) and his minion (Wallace Shawn) and the suggestion the girl might have been switched at birth.

Wednesday? She’s in a mild-mannered tizzy over the participation trophy nature of the science competition, in which she mixed the DNA of her brilliant pet octopus with that of dim bulb Uncle Fester.

“How can there be a WINNER if nobody LOSES?”

Her sulking is what inspires the road trip. First stop, Niagara Falls, “the great wonder of the world that kills the most tourists!” Having fun, Wednesday?

“I’m staring at Canada, if that answers your question.”

The family hits Miami Beach, San Antonio (where Wednesday is booked into a “Little Miss Jalapeno” pageant, almost funny) and onward, chased by the persistent minion of the tech billionaire even as Uncle Fester slowly morphs into an octopus, one prone to “toilet” (octopus ink) accidents.

As Wednesday might put it, “Hilarious.”

Three writers are credited on the script, and from the looks of things, many more were needed to joke this up. A good kids’ cartoon silences its underaged audience between laugh-out-loud gags. This doesn’t. There’s barely enough going on to hold their attention, judging from the crowd I saw this with.

It’s understandable that MGM would want to make a sequel to their sleeper smash of a couple of years ago. It’s laudable that they stuck with the same animation house that made that one, giving them another fine visual showcase. But it’s unforgivable that MGM would do a rush job sequel and waste all this glorious animation on a corpse of a kids’ comedy.

Rating: PG for macabre and rude humor, violence and language

Cast: The voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Kroll, Javon Walton, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler and Wallace Shawn

Credits: Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, scripted by Dan Hernandez, Ben Queen and Benji Samit. An MGM release.

Running time: 1:33

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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