The Movie Guru: “The Addams Family 2” family-friendly Halloween fun
Grade: Two and a half stars
If you liked “Hotel Transylvania,” then you’ll like “The Addams Family 2.”
The movie, which opens in theaters and on on demand this Friday, is part of the same surprisingly specific genre as the “Hotel Transylvania” movies. A Halloween-friendly, wackily-animated family tries to have a normal human experience that doesn’t work out quite right. They freak some people out, make some unexpected friends, and celebrate how much they love each other while learning valuable life lessons.
Though some critics have argued that the animated Addams movies are copies of the “Hotel Transylvania” movies, it could be argued that the live-action Addams properties actually invented the genre. The animated movies do pick up some of the “Hotel Transylvania” wackiness, though the art style owes at least some of its credit to the original Addams print cartoons. They’re also slightly less morbid than the 90s movies, but that was also true of the original TV series.
The differences, though, are relatively minor. The overall experience is similar enough that if you like one entry in the genre you’ll probably like most of the others. “The Addams Family” does have the benefit of not including Adam Sandler, which gives it a slight edge over most of the “Hotel Transylvania” movies. Still, the vibe of pleasant, Halloween-tinged nonsense is very similar. This one is road-trip flavored, with suitably Addams-style highlights like Death Valley.
Surprisingly, “The Addams Family 2” proves to be a better movie than the original. It’s a little more focused, the plot lines tied together more effectively and given appropriate emphasis. It’s also less reliant on less interesting outside characters, with the bad guy getting screen time only in connection to the main characters. He’s still there, and he still causes problems, but the movie knows we’re here for the Addams.
Importantly, the bad guy also relies more on classic Halloween-style tropes than it does parody. Parody always has a bit of a mean-spirited edge to it, even if it’s deserved, and is heavily dependent on both context and director perspective. A mad scientist, on the other hand, is just full of fun potential.
The entire movie is also less reliant on the dichotomy of weird vs. normal and trying to force one into the other. The Addams’ stride through things like science fairs and beauty pageants without a trace of self-consciousness, accidentally wreaking havoc along the way just because of who they are. It makes the movie more fun, and though there are moments when the movie gets bogged down in some sort of message the movie mostly zips along.
Is it a great movie? No. But it’s a wacky little vacation for Halloween fans, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.