The Addams Family 2

Directed by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Screenplay by Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit and Ben Queen & Susana Fogel

Story by Benji Samit & Dan Hernandez, based on characters created by Charles Addams

Featuring Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Kroll, Javon “Wanna” Walton, Snoop Dog, Bette Midler, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, Brian Sommer

Charles Addams’ immortal creation, “The Addams Family,” has been the topic of conversation in every household since the late 1930s, first as a comic strip, then as a popular television show, two feature-length live-action films in the ’90s, and now, a feature-length animated film series, with the latest iteration, “The Addams Family 2” in theaters and on premium VOD.

Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia Addams (Charlize Theron) recognize that their children are growing up, and over the years, have started to separate, as children who are growing up do. And, that’s precisely what daughter Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) does.

During a school science fair, Wednesday works her impressive magic drawing eyes toward her invention, while poor Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) is the unwitting subject of her latest experiment, a running gag throughout the film that doesn’t run out of gas, while brother Pugsley, voiced by franchise newcomer Javon Walton (previously voiced by Finn Wolfhard) continues to come into his own.

Wednesday’s experiment also attracts the attention of Bill Hader’s Cyrus Strange, a genius who needs Wednesday’s help. Co-directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon stage a very cool animated virtual hologram during the initial encounter between Wednesday and Strange; it felt very lifelike and caught your attention, the hallmark of the animation the directors used throughout the film.

Sensing a disconnect between them and their children Gomez and Morticia load up the family in their luxurious Transylvanian-inspired RV coach (which looks more spacious than my last apartment, by the way) for a road trip across the country to reconnect, before a road stop with destiny catches up to them.

“The Addams Family 2″ offers the same glee and irreverence as the previous animated film and any other film or television episode in the series could. As the family bounds from home to Niagara Falls, to Miami, San Antonio (there’s a hilarious skit in a hotel that you won’t want to miss) and then into Death Valley, the script written by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen, and Susana Fogel tries to bring the family closer together. Isaac and Theron are pitch-perfect as Gomez and Theron; Walton does a good job as Pugsley, but the story doesn’t give him much to do until the third act, where he turns in a rather inspired performance.

It is on Wednesday that “The Addams Family 2” centers. With her ‘Emo-like’ voice, Moretz starts strong and confident with her project and then spends most of the movie sulking like a teenager. Part of the sulkiness is in just being a teenager, part of it is Wednesday’s (and Moretz’s macabre performance). Still, the story lays this on so thickly with a trowel to the point where the connecting her plight to the audience emotionally runs a bit long; I have a heart, and I was a teenager; however, it didn’t fully connect with me. Moretz was solidly funny in her interactions with Pugsley and Uncle Fester; as I said, there’s a running gag involving Fester that genuinely made me laugh throughout the film.

Cousin It (Snoop Dogg) manages to catch up with the family in a rather brilliant homage to a classic blockbuster. The trailing Rupert Strange, jollily voiced by the eminent Wallace Shawn (you have no idea how much I’m trying to avoid using his trademark line from “The Princess Bride, alas), tries to keep up with the family, having been thwarted at nearly every opportunity. The Addamses outwit the elder Strange in San Antonio through an inventive homage to another classic film.

Touches like these are why I enjoyed “The Addams Family 2.” Bette Midler voices Grandmama, and with her more minor role in the film, her antics raise the roof. However, Bill Hader’s Cyrus Strange was just . . . . strange, pardon my pun, though his interaction with Wednesday was solid; the third act is where “The Addams Family 2” runs out of gas somewhat.

Speaking of touches, my hat’s off to Mychael and Jeff Danna for their fantastic score, which, combined with the selected pop tracks, lifts the film’s emotional center. Speaking of pop tracks, listen for Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” in one key scene; it got a laugh out of me.

At the end of this road, there’s something to be said about the creation’s enduring legacy. My mini qualms of “The Addams Family 2” notwithstanding, it is the good-natured characters of the ever so creepy Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch, Cousin It, and yes, even the Stranges that make me want to come back for more.

They might be “unhappy to see you” in the theater this weekend; however, the animated “The Addams Family 2” has just enough irreverent dark and macabre humor to keep us entertained. Now in theaters and on premium VOD in the U.S. and Canada.

93 minutes, PG, United Artists Releasing/BRON Creative