‘Addams Family 2’ fun running on fumes

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Rated PG. At the AMC Boston Common, Regal Fenway, AMC South Bay and suburban theaters.

Grade: C+

These “Addams Family” films, both live-action and more recent, computer-animated, were inspired by the “New Yorker” cartoons of Charles Addams, yes. But they would never have been made without the widespread and long-term popularity of the 1964 ABC television series that ran only for two seasons and has then been aired somewhere in syndication ever since. Has anyone forgotten that theme song by Vic Mizzy? I used to hum it for friends who visited my family home.

Yes, the Addams Family remains “mysterious and spooky,” even in the new, completely uninspired film. Written by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” fame, this “Addams Family” installment borrows its premise from those “National Lampoon’s Vacation” films. After failing to be the sole winner of her school’s science fair, Wednesday Addams (pitch perfect voice of Chloe Grace Moretz), who exchanged traits between the family octopus Socrates and her Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), feels even more, ahem, estranged from others. At home, her father Gomez (Oscar Isaac) is madly in love with his wife and Wednesday’s mother Morticia (Charlize Theron), whose little black dress comes complete with tentacly train. Their son Pugsley (Javon “Wanna” Walton, replacing Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”), Wednesday’s brother, is a little weird troublemaker in a striped T-shirt and shorts, who longs for a girlfriend. The family circle also includes old witch Grandma (an underused Bette Midler), beloved, Frankenstein monster-like servant Lurch (Conrad Vernon), fantastically hirsute Cousin It (one-joke wonder Snoop Dogg), disembodied hand Thing and a lion named Kitty.

Charlize Theron as the voice of Morticia Addams (left) and Chloë Grace Moretz as the voice of Wednesday Addams (right) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2, directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.(Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

The plot suggests that Wednesday was switched at birth by her confused uncle and that she is really the daughter of evil scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader, mired in an unfunny role), Strange has conducted Dr. Moreau-like experiments, mixing animal and human genes. His wife and daughter are more bird and pig, respectively, than human, He wants Wednesday’s formula, and his father Rupert (Wallace Shawn) together with a giant sidekick follow the Addams family on their cross-country jaunt in a camper resembling an enormous hearse. Their first destination is Salem, of course. But they veer off course to Niagara Falls, where Wednesday uses a voodoo doll to make her brother dance to her tune.

In Miami Beach, Morticia literally trowels on sunscreen, and we get the obligatory “Jaws” reference. In fact, almost everything about “Addams Family 2,” which was directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon of the first film, along with first-timer Laura Brousseau, is obligatory and not the least bit inventive or clever. Is a “Ghouls Gone Wild” joke appropriate for a children’s film? At the Alamo, Wednesday, who wears the same monochrome outfit and pig-tailed hairstyle every day, is forced to don a pink gown and matching bouffant for a Little Miss Jalapeno contest. It is not funny, and neither is a hand sanitizer joke involving Thing. Uncle Fester tries to be all three Stooges rolled up in one. But Kroll cannot come close to Christopher Lloyd’s magically deranged portrayal in the 1990s films or the TV antics of former Charles Chaplin co-star Jackie Coogan in the original TV series. Will Snoop Dogg, a person best known for his love of weed, rap for his family? They really aren’t a scream.

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