The Addams Family 2: Spooky kooks still fiendishly fun

The Addams Family 2 (PG, 93 minutes).

3 stars

Charles Addams' cheerfully macabre characters seem unkillable. They began in a series of cartoons in The New Yorker from 1938 and in 1964 came the first TV series, a sitcom with an indelible "click click" theme song. Although the show only lasted two seasons, it endured in the popular consciousness.

Puggsley (voiced by Javon Walton) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) in The Addams Family 2. Picture: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Puggsley (voiced by Javon Walton) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) in The Addams Family 2. Picture: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Then came a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series in the 1970s, two live-action films in the 1990s starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston and a Canadian sitcom version as well as a Broadway musical. There might be more but you get the idea: this family isn't going away.

Perhaps the fact that it is the Addams Family is a key to the franchise's success: however "creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky" the Addamses might be, they do care about each other: it's often them against the world. They know they're seen as different, and they don't care.

In 2019 the first computer-animated feature film was released. It was a hit and so, inevitably, came this sequel, with two directors, two co-directors and four writers credited. Thankfully, it's not the too-many-cooks mess that might have been feared: it looks good and it's fun, with lots of clever gags to appeal to older audience members as well as broader humour for the younger folk.

As in the stage musical, albeit in a different way, a change in the family's daughter is the focus.

At the start of the film, darkly deadpan Wednesday (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz) is feeling alienated from her family, and not in a good way. It's not that she subjects younger brother Pugsley (Javon Walton, replacing the previous film's Finn Wolfhard) to inventive tortures: that passes for normal.

Nor is it just regular adolescent angst, though she does display embarrassment at the displays of affection of her father Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and is chagrined when the whole family turns up at her science fair.

Wednesday is experimenting with how people can be "improved" which leads to ever-increasing changes in Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and catches the attention of scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader).

Discussing his concerns about Wednesday with wife Morticia (Charlize Theron), Gomez hits on what he thinks is the ideal solution: a family road trip to such places as Salem, Massachusetts.

Leaving Grandma (an under-used Bette Midler) in charge of the house, the Addamses, with butler Lurch (Conrad Vernon) and handy helper Thing head off - but not before a mysterious visitor arrives with information that could both explain why Wednesday is feeling the way she does and change the family forever.

The parents keep this from the kids - even as they realise they're being pursued - as they go on their adventures, taking in such touristy spots as Niagara Falls and Miami, the latter the place where hirsute Cousin It joins them.

The worry about Wednesday gives the story a throughline and an emotional core.

A real pleasure throughout is the steady stream of visual and verbal humour (apart from some of Gomez's dad jokes).

From roadsigns that refer to places familiar to horror buffs - Crystal Lake and Elm Street anyone? - to Wednesday's regular attacks on her brother to a strange interlude in a bikie bar where Lurch reveals an unexpected talent or two, there's much to enjoy. I'm sure I missed a few.

One of the more subtle moments has Fester quote the last words of Lawrence Oates during Robert Falcon Scott's doomed Antarctic expedition (look it up, it's quite heroic).

If you wanted to be nitpicky, you might point out that the Salem "witches" were not burned at the stake (19 of the accused were hanged), and - less importantly - that the family should have driven into Canada for the more spectacular view of Niagara Falls (though they might have encountered some border hassles).

The running gag involving Fester (of all people) trying to advise Pugsley on how to approach girls isn't as amusing as it might have been and, perhaps because of its episodic nature, the film does feel like it's gone on a bit by the time it reaches its climactic encounter.

Still, there's no need to focus on the shortcomings. This is fun, even when I was watching it alone at Dendy. A responsive audience would only have enhanced the experience.

This story Spooky kooks still fiendishly fun first appeared on The Canberra Times.