The aesthetic de-evilution of the creepy, kooky, and altogether ooky cast of characters known as the Addams Family elucidates a reverse Darwinism: Call it survival of the witless.
First seen in those sublimely macabre cartoons created by the wickedly talented Charles Addams, which appeared for over 50 years on the pages of The New Yorker until his death in 1988, the morbid clan has generally become less ghoulish with each pop-culture iteration. There was the relatively short-lived network television series in the mid-Sixties that introduced the illustrated personae by name for the first time, courtesy of Addams himself. (What other twisted mind could conjure appellations like “Morticia,” “Lurch,” or “Uncle Fester”?). While that sanitized small-screen oddity retained a dollop of his perverse sense of humor (a prime example: snipping the buds from thorned rose stems before arranging them in a vase) and introduced such delightfully weird characters as the diminutive hairball Cousin Itt and the handsy Thing. Sadly, a dreadful 1973 animated TV series that followed drained all the blood from the atypical family premise to the point of do-not-resuscitation. Nearly 20 years later, the Addamses briefly rose from the grave to appear in a couple of feature films with an amiable PG-13 edge – not to mention a deliciously deadpan Anjelica Huston as the family matriarch – only to (dis)grace a spate of forgettable TV movies and video games afterward. And the less said about that embarrassing Broadway musical the better.
Now, there’s the animated feature film sequel (the first abomination materialized in 2019) even more unbecoming of its legacy. The computer-generated The Addams Family 2 doesn’t warrant a single finger-snap, much less two. Oddly, its story cribs from the misbegotten Seventies-era animated series that lasted all of one season. When daughter Wednesday (Moretz), predictably full of woe, and son Pugsley (Walton) begin to exhibit asocial behavior, concerned parents Gomez (Isaac) and Morticia (Theron) take most of the household on a cross-country trip to renew familial bonds. They journey westward – with stops at Niagara Falls, San Antonio (prepare yourself for lots of terrible Texan stereotypes), the Grand Canyon (blown to smithereens), and Sausalito – in a steam-punk version of a recreational vehicle. Behind them, a bizarrely coiffed minion (Shawn) and his Hulkian sidekick are in hot pursuit, sent on a mission by a Dr. Moreauesque scientist (Hader) seeking to abduct the possibly switched-at-birth Wednesday for a real family reunion.
With the exception of Kroll’s gravelly intoned Uncle Fester, the voicework is sketchy, with Theron’s Seven-Sisters elocution bordering on sacrilege. By the time the inevitable apropos-of-nothing musical number takes place in a Death Valley biker bar a little more than midway through the movie (the disco anthem “I Will Survive,” no less), your kids will be snoring and you may want to scream … and not in a good way.
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