Addams Family 2: Futile search for laughs and spookiness
THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2 (PG, 93 mins) Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Chloe Grace Moretz, Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Javon Walton, Nick Kroll, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, Bette Midler, Snoop Dogg. Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon.
Rating - Three stars
IN a world of bland conformity, the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky characters from Charles Addams' newspaper cartoon strips proudly stand out from the crowd with their lip-smackingly macabre predilections.
"Being different is the most Addamsy thing," observes morose teenager Wednesday Addams (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz) in Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon's computer-animated sequel.
Ironically, The Addams Family 2 is more conventional than its lacklustre predecessor, recycling plot elements from the second and third chapters of the Hotel Transylvania franchise to cram the titular clan into a camper van (driven by Thing) for a ramshackle excursion designed to strengthen family unity.
"This trip will bring the Addams family closer than ever before," gushes patriarch Gomez (Oscar Isaac).
"Or there will be no survivors," deadpans daughter Wednesday.
The quality of the animation has improved from two years ago - water effects during a pivotal sequence at Niagara Falls cause a splash in the best possible sense – and there are a couple of pleasing visual gags, including a wooden road sign with multiple arms pointing to Amityville, Crystal Lake, Elm Street, Haddonfield and the Overlook Hotel.
A script credited to four writers incorporates a couple of references to the turmoil of the past 20 months.
Thing slathers digits with hand sanitiser and Wednesday drolly justifies her aversion to hugs by quipping, "I've been social distancing since birth."
The Addams Family 2 dilutes the deliciously disturbing tone of the cartoon strips and Barry Sonnenfeld's glorious 1991 live action film while there are still few signs of life in the vocal performances of Isaac and Charlize Theron as marvellously morbid sweethearts Gomez and Morticia.
Wednesday (Moretz) enters a national science fair with her homemade serum, which transplants personality traits between species.
The morose teenager injects Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) with a cocktail derived from her highly intelligent pet octopus Socrates to demonstrate the effectiveness of her invention.
Scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), who sponsors the fair, fixates on Wednesday's chemical formula.
"Alas I can't share it," she replies coldly. "It's a family secret."
Soon after, lawyer Mr Mustela (Wallace Shawn) approaches Gomez (Isaac) and Morticia (Theron) for a sample of Wednesday's DNA.
The advocate claims the enfant terrible was switched in the maternity ward with another child.
Gomez is devastated at the prospect of losing his little girl and hurriedly organises a three-week family holiday from Salem, site of the 17th-century witch trials, to Death Valley via Sleepy Hollow.
En route, Wednesday repeatedly shuns her father's affection ("It's torture, and not the fun kind like putting leeches in Pugsley's briefs") and Cousin It (Snoop Dogg) shares cryptic parenting advice ("Children are like socks in the laundry. They need to be lost before they can be found").
The Addams Family 2 is a marginal improvement on the original but the bar was set low enough to trouble the most flexible limbo dancer.
We are neither afraid nor petrified.