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At The Movies: ‘Family’ matters

“The Addams Family 2” and “The Many Saints Of Newark” present two disparate views of family life.

On the one hand, there’s the family based on characters created and drawn by Charles Addams (1912-1988) in single-panel cartoons published (1938-1988) in the New Yorker magazine. The Addams Family includes Thing, a disembodied hand.

On the other hand, there’s the family based on mob characters created by David Chase for “The Sopranos,” with many of the screenplays written by Chase and some directed by him for HBO (1999-2007). The Tony Soprano family could cause a disembodied hand.

“The Addams Family 2” is a computer-animated feature film sequel to “The Addams Family” (2019) animated feature movie.

The Addams Family cartoons have inspired television shows, movies, video games, books and a Broadway musical.

The ABC-TV series (1964-1966) starred John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia Addams. The theatrical features, “The Addams Family” (1991) and “Addams Family Values” (1993), starred Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia. “The Addams Family” Broadway musical (2010) starred Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia.

The 2021 animation feature film brings back the voice cast of Oscar Isaac (Gomez), Charlize Theron (Morticia) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Nick Kroll (Uncle Fester) and Bette Midler (Grandma). Javon Walton replaces Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley.

The most distinctive voice characterization is that of Charlize Theron, whose crisp lucidity informs the animation in the glide of Morticia’s walk and the angles of her face.

The animation throughout is impressive, in an often bilious color palette, with detailed backgrounds (there’s a credit for Foliage Production), fanciful attire and even the rusting sheen of the RV for the Addams Family travels.

Which brings us to the plot. What plot? It’s a cross-country road trip movie. Think “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983). Preposterous distractions occur, as when Pugsley uses his superpowers (Who knew?) to set the Grand Canyon on fire. Not funny, given the forest fires devastating the western United States.

As with some recent superhero movies, when the screenwriters apparently got lazy or their creativity ran dry, “The Addams Family” devolves into battling beasts.

“The Addams Family 2” is directed by Greg Tiernan (“The Addams Family,” “Thomas & Friends”) and Conrad Vernon (“The Addams Family”; “Sausage Party,” 2016; “Shrek 2,” 2004), co-directed by Laura Brousseau and Kevin Pavlovick), based on a screenplay by Dan Hernandez (“Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” 2019), Benji Samit (“Pokémon Detective Pikachu”), Ben Queen (“Cars 3, 2,” 2017, 2011) and Susanna Fogel (“Booksmart,” 2019) from a story by Hernandez and Samit, based on characters created by Charles Addams.

The best part is a snippet of “The Addams Family” theme song (1964) written by Vic Mizzy, heard at the film’s conclusion, replete Thing pointing to the lyrics on screen for sing-along fun.

If we were reviewing with finger snaps instead of popcorn boxes: Two snaps for “The Addams Family 2.”

“The Addams Family 2,”

MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.) for macabre and rude humor, violence and language; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 33 min. Distributed by United Artists Releasing.

At The Movies:

“The Addams Family 2” was seen at AMC Tilghman Square 8, formerly New Vision, South Whitehall Township. I was last there March 16, 2020, to review “The Way Back,” on the eve of its closing because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown.

“The Many Saints of Newark”

purports to tell the story of a crime family and of how Tony Soprano became Tony Soprano. It’s an origin story, or prequel.

Yes and no.

Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini (1961-2013), resembling a young John Cusack or young Neil Diamond, is excellent as the teen-age Tony Soprano, the character his father played in the HBO series.

“The Many Saints of Newark” helicopters around Tony, not unlike his alternately doting and scolding mother (an excellent Vera Farmiga) and other back-slapping and back-stabbing characters, including Dickie Moltisanti (riveting Alessandro Nivola) Johnny Soprano (always great Jon Bernthal), Giuseppina Moltisanti (a naturalistic Michela De Rossi) and Harold McBrayer (memorable Leslie Odom Jr.).

The dual characters of “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti are confusing, even though Ray Liotta, playing the roles of each, steals the show. Liotta is the real made man every moment he’s onscreen. Liotta is deserving of a supporting actor Oscar nomination.

The milieu of Black Power riots in 1967 in Newark, N.J., and the roiling Vietnam War is juxtaposed effectively. Even so, the plot device hovers around Tony Soprano and other characters. The screenplay is more backdrop, with not enough character development, trenchant dialogue and defining scenes.

The ironically-titled “The Many Saints of Newark” is a brutal character study that recalls the darker side (Can there be any other?) of the made life, and such films as “The Irishman” (2019), “Casino” (1995); “Goodfellas” (1990) and “The Godfather” trilogy (1990, 1974, 1972).

The film’s title, “The Many Saints of Newark,” refers to the last name of Dickie Moltisanti, Christopher Moltisanti’s father. Molti Santi translates as “many saints.”

Alan Taylor (Primetime Emmy, director, “The Sopranos,” 2007; director, “Thor: The Dark World,” 2013) directs from a screenplay by David Chase (Primetime Emmy, four-time, “The Sopranos”) and Lawrence Konner (“The Sopranos”).

This is tragedy writ small, in the back alleys, back rooms and paybacks of mob life. The de-glamorized slice of life and death of being married to the mob (for men and women) depicts a brutality that will make you turn away from the screen.

Unfortunately, the hits add up to mostly misses. The story doesn’t really go anywhere. Maybe that’s the point.

“The Many Saints of Newark,”

MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.) for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity; Genre: Crime Drama; Run time: 2 hours. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Theatrical Movie Box Office,

Oct. 8-10: The latest and 25th James Bond movie, which is Daniel Craig’s fifth and said to be his last in the title role, opened at No. 1 (It was to open April 2020, but was delayed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown.), with $56 million, in 4,407 theaters, as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” dropped one place from its one-week perch at No. 1 to No. 2, with $32 million, in 4,225 theaters, $141.6 million, two weeks.

3. “The Addams Family 2” dropped one place, $10 million, in 4,207 theaters, $31.1 million, two weeks. 4. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” dropped one place, $4.2 million, in 2,800 theaters, $212.4 million, six weeks. 5. “The Many Saints of Newark” dropped one place, $1.4 million, in 3,181 theaters, $7.4 million, two weeks. 6. “Free Guy’ stayed in place, $1.3 million, in 1,495 theaters, $119.6 million, nine weeks. 7. “Lamb,” $1 million, in 583 theaters, opening. 8. “Dear Evan Hansen” dropped three places, $1 million, in 1,927 theaters, $13.7 million, three weeks. 9. “Candyman” dropped two places, in 1,153 theaters, $60 million, seven weeks. 10. “Unknown Title,” $387,000, in 791 theaters, opening.

Box office information from Box Office Mojo as of Oct. 10 is subject to change.


Oct. 15:

“Halloween Kills,”

R: David Gordon Green directs Robert Longstreet, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards and Anthony Michael Hall in the Horror film. The saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode continues in the “Halloween” movie franchise.

“The Last Duel,”

R: Ridley Scott directs Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver in the History Drama. King Charles VI orders Knight Jean de Carrouges settle a dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.

“Bergman Island,”

R: Mia Hansen-Løve directs Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Grace Delrue and Mia Wasikowska in the Drama. Reality and fiction blurs for a couple writing a screenlay on an island that inspired director Ingmar Bergman.

“Needle in a Timestack,”

R: John Ridley directs Freida Pinto, Leslie Odom Jr., Orlando Bloom and Cynthia Erivo in the Science-Fiction film. An ex-husband, who appears via a time warp, disrupts a couple’s marriage.

“Hard Luck Love Song,”

R: Justin Corsbie directs Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney and RZA in the Romantic Drama. A musician struggles for fame.


No MPAA rating: David Silverman and Raymond S. Persi direct the voice talents of Adam Devine, Rachel Bloom, Ken Jeong and Zazie Beetz and the Animation in the Comedy. Two animals time-travel from the Galapagos Islands in 1835 to present-day Shanghai to discover their species is extinct.

“Seal Team,”

No MPAA rating: Greig Cameron and Kane Croudace direct the voice talents of J.K. Simmons, Kristen Schaal, Dolph Lundgren and Patrick Warburton and the Animation in the Comedy. Seals try to withstand a shark attack.

Movie opening dates from Internet Movie Database are subject to change.

“The Addams Family 2”:

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

“The Many Saints of Newark”:

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY UNITED ARTISTS RELEASING From left: Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), Natasha (Charlize Theron), Gomez (Oscar Isaac), Pugsley (Javon Walton), “The Addams Family 2”
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY WARNER BROS. From left: Michael Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Michela De Rossi (Giuseppina Moltisanti), Alessandro Nivola (Dickie Moltisanti), “The Many Saints of Newark”