As recent pop culture fans know The Addams family they probably remember it completely as a 60s TV program, a 2010 Broadway musical or a series of 90s films directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. But the "creepy and crazy, mysterious and ghostly" family started life as a series of satirical cartoons drawn by Charles Addams and published in The New Yorker between 1938 and 1988. The hook of the shiny new animated film about the macabre family is that it returns to the look of those original Addams cartoons, with the drawn train of Morticia's dress, Gomez's round figure and Wednesday's oval face in perfect truth.
But even as animation veterans and Sausage Party co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan go back to the origins of The Addams family, they fail to capture the spirit that made the clan such a hit in the beginning. Their opinion The Addams family is not a shout, it is a painfully generic children's film.
Like most children's films with soft pedals, their Addams family makes a vague gesture toward meaningful life lessons – in this case, a timely message about the importance of recognizing humanity of people, regardless of their differences. The film places the Addamses in the 21st century to comment on how witch hunts of the past have turned into paranoid online neighborhood watch groups. The morbid sensitivity of the Addams family serves as a metaphor for any form of otherness that prevents bigots from seeing their neighbors as equals. It is a welcome thematic center, one that almost achieves a genuine sense of emotion. Unfortunately, The Addams family is so bland, unpleasant and poorly structured that even the best of intentions cannot elevate it.
After a short prologue about the dreary wedding of the refined Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) and his proudly icy bride Morticia (Charlize Theron), the film jumps forward to the classic Addams family status quo. Gomez and Morticia are happily nestled in a creepy haunted house with their murderous deadpan daughter Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and their explosively dangerous son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). Loyal attendants Lurch and Thing are also there. And since Pugsley & # 39; s approaching "Saber Mazurka" – a kind of bar mitzvah-like coming-of-age ceremony with a sword dance – is set to bring the entire extended Addams family to town, Gomez & # 39; s brother Fester (Nick Kroll) and his mother Grandmama (Bette Midler) appears early to help with the preparations.
The approaching influx of Addamses fits in seamlessly with the second half of the plot, which involves a cookie cutter component that pops up a stone's throw from Addams' mansion. The city "Assimilation" (no points for subtle) is the brainchild of manically conceited HGTV-eque designer Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), who plans to sell all 50 of his houses during a live TV special. She is worried that the dilapidated mansion of Addams is an eyesore that could drive away potential buyers. Gomez and Morticia are meanwhile nervous about going back to an outside world that has (literally) burned them earlier. (Although juxtaposing the macabre with the suburbs has long been a cornerstone of The Addams family mythos, there are times when this new movie comes dangerously close to feeling like a rip off Hotel Transylvania franchise.)
But that is just one of more than half a dozen subplots crammed into the 87-minute duration of the film. The Addams family does not feel so much like a single story as a series of Saturday morning cartoons merged. The highlight of the season would undoubtedly be "The One Where Wednesday Goes to Junior High". In the most interesting continuous line, Wednesday will be friends with Margaux & # 39; s rebellious daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher) and take a reconnaissance mission in the world of teenage girl. The unlikely friendship inspires Parker to reject her mother's sunny aesthetic for something more emo, while Wednesday establishes her own form of teenage rebellion by embracing girlish conventionality.
It is a nice idea that Wednesday and the mother / daughter relationship of Morticia briefly put forward in a way that the films of Sonnenfeld never did. There is even an intriguing queer subtext in Wednesday and Parker's relationship. But like most subplots in The Addams family, Wednesday's storyline without mercy. It is as if the film has the required duration and then simply gives up without resolving things.
Another big reason The Addams family ends like a cartoon on Saturday morning because of the flat, weightless appearance of the animation. The visual highlight comes in the opening moments, with a montage of Morticia & # 39; s beauty routine in which she applies the makeup of her parents' ashes to herself. The rest of the film rarely matches that level of creepy creativity. Apart from the occasional clever detail, such as the way the pig tails from Wednesday run in the loop, there is not much personality in the way the characters are brought to life. The Addams family looks more like a PC game from the 1990s than a large budget.
The vocal performances are equally lifeless. Few members of the impressive star-studded cast make any kind of impression. (There is probably a fraud case to report about advertising for Snoop Dogg as the voice of Cousin Itt, given that he only delivers a handful of vocally modulated lines, all in the characteristic high swivel of Itt.) Isaac, Theron and Moretz are clear trying to do their best, but they can't do much with a painfully unpleasant script that is heavily dependent on cheap reference humor. At a characteristic moment, a cool image with a cavalcade of spiders is undermined by a lame one-liner over & # 39; surfing the web & # 39 ;. Even if the jokes aren't terrible, Vernon and Tiernan (working from a scenario of The Christmas chroniclesMatt Lieberman and Corpse BridePamela Pettler) failed to create any successful comic timing.
Only Janney rises above the matte material to deliver a real scene-stealing angry turn. This is not her first animated role (among other things, she agreed with the fearful starfish Finding Nemo), but she claims that she must be in the medium regularly. She knows how to give a performance large enough to break the plasticity of her character. Yet there is an irony in getting away from one Addams family Story feeling like the normie villain is more memorable than the Addams tribe.
To be honest, The Addams Family is not necessarily worse than a lot of the generic child fare that comes to the cinema these days. It just feels like a bigger disappointment than for example The secret life of pets 2, because other makers have done so much more with these characters. Although the film takes its aesthetic from the original cartoons, The Addams family is clearly a strategic attempt to reach a generation that grew up in the 1990s Sonnenfeld films and now has children of its own. But like Disney & # 39; s live-action remakes of his animated classics that target the same nostalgic audience, The Addams family only serves as an argument for visiting the originals again.