The Addams Family is one of those franchises that has different eras that have their die-hard supporters. Fans of the original TV show generally are not the sort who are highly passionate about the original Charles Addams comics. Nor are the fans of the 1990s films super involved with singing the praises of the original show. That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. It is just that there are different Addams-eras, and they have their principal audience.
Now we enter a new era with 2019’s animated adaptation of The Addams Family. The question that must be asked is whether this take on the family will inspire any similar passions.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky…
We all know The Addams Family and know the ear-worm theme song. We know the basic archetypes. When you go to see a reboot of The Addams Family you already know what to expect. The film follows the origins and the travails of the Addams Family, a group of strange individuals assembled on a haunted house on a hill. The family’s patriarch, Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac), and the matriarch, Morticia (Charlize Theron), raise their two children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). They are often accompanied by Gomez’s mother, Grandmama (Bette Midler), and his brother, Fester (Nick Kroll). The family also lives with Thing, a severed, sentient hand, and the live-in help, Lurch (Conrad Vernon).
But hey, you know all this.
What you do not know is that movie follows the family as they discover a planned community has sprung up virtually overnight in the valley below. The Addamses are understandably concerned, having been run out of “the old country.” The question remains, however, whether history will repeat itself when they come into the cross hairs of reality TV host Margaux Needler who is banking on the planned community of “Assimilation” to be her greatest triumph. Throw in a dueling subplot about a father understanding his son, and mothers dealing with rebellious daughters, and you have yourself a 2019 Addams Family movie.
The film also features the voices of Snoop Dogg, Allison Janney, and Titus Burgess. There is also a rather fun cameo featuring Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.
The movie was directed by the pairing of Conrad Vernon and Greg Tierman. Matt Lieberman, Erica Rivinoja, and Conrad Vernon wrote The Addams Family, adapting it from the original comics by Charles Addams, but with plenty of references to the television show as well.
What worked with The Addams Family?
The film isn’t a bad movie. It’s not great, but it is an effective distraction for a little over an hour. For anyone who has grown up with some form of The Addams Family there are nods and continuations of what you’d expect to see in an Addams Family movie, but little else. The story is fairly cloying, even for children, but the idea of taking the story back to Gomez and Morticia’s wedding was a welcome surprise. It established the central conflict of otherness fairly well. It is just a shame that what should be a whip-smart parody of a nuclear family ends up wrapping up with a fairly standard 3rd act action-conflict than anything truly clever.
The brightest spot of the film is the willingness to crib the character designs directly from Charles Addams’ original comics, but the CGI feels fairly texture-less and many of the designs skew just a little too far from the source. Overall though, the willingness to play closer to the original source of the characters is a good impulse and definitely makes the Addamses stand out among computer-animated family fare. The film is not afraid to be ugly and weird.
What didn’t work?
So many elements of the movie smack of a sort of template. The character designs are largely pretty boring outside of the family themselves. Also, there are so many odd choices made that reflect a mid-2000s animated aesthetic and storytelling impulse. Take, for example, celebrity stunt-casting. None of the actors who landed a role in the film really deliver much. I feel we’d have been far better off as viewers with Oscar Isaac as a live-action Gomez rather than delivering a fairly average voice-over role. Even the core cast’s most accomplished voice actor, Nick Kroll, does not really add anything to the film with his take on Fester. It’s the same sort of voices he’s used somewhere in Big Mouth.
Maybe the biggest example of this mid-2000s casting impulse is having Snoop Dogg voice Cousin It. You don’t get to hear Snoop, really, just the sped-up-gibberish of It. The thing is, you could have easily had anyone else do that part. Instead, it went to Snoop, and it was mostly for a gag; Cousin It drives up to the Addams’ mansion blaring “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Look, this is not a bad film. It’s just uninspired. While watching it I didn’t think “this was terrible.” But I did feel like there were a lot of lazy choices. It suffers from that same sort of latter-day-Shrek style of a basic story with gags for kids and pop-culture references for the adults. I am not going to be upset at such a paper-thing plot being predictable. I do, however, find myself annoyed the film did not do more to grapple with the more subversive nature of previous Addams Family adaptations.
The Addams Family is cute but fleeting. If you miss it in theaters you will not be missing much. It’d be worth a catch on Netflix or whatever inevitable streaming service it lands on. It’s a curiosity, but I highly doubt it will inspire a passionate fanbase.(2 / 5)
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