By Kevin Hoskinson
Cartoonist Charles Addams created the Addams Family in 1938. It started as a one-panel comic in the New Yorker before being spawned into a successful television show, animated shows, and a film series directed by Barry Sonnenfeld in the 1990s. And as much as I would love to wax nostalgic about how great the live-action television show and movies were, I’m not going to. It would be unfair to compare what has come before to what is out now because if I did, there wouldn’t be much to say other than “those were great” and “this is not so great.”
So, I’m just going to jump right into it. We’ll see how this goes.
For those of you not in the now, the Addams Family consists of parents Gomez and Morticia and children Wednesday and Pugsley. They are the personification of the gothic horror genre, living in an old, dark, and haunted abandoned asylum. Lurch is their freakishly tall butler, and they have an extended family that consists of a disembodied hand named Thing and cousin Itt, who is covered in hair. Other than their obsession with all things dark and creepy, they are your average American family. Gomez and Patricia are madly in love, and the children fight, argue, and are constantly trying to kill each other.
The movie starts at the beginning, at the wedding of Gomez and Morticia. They are driven out of town by torch-wielding town folk for being “freaks” and make their way to New Jersey to start a new life. It’s there where they (literally) run into their future butler Lurch and find an abandoned asylum, which is their perfect home. The years pass, and they start to raise their perfect family.
Things for the Addams family seem perfect living on their creepy hill, with their house surrounded by a thick layer of fog and people leaving them alone. Morticia struggles to keep their daughter Wednesday from wanting to experience the outside world, while Gomez prepares Pugsley for his upcoming Mazurka, a rite of passage every member of the Addams takes. Meanwhile, reality TV host Margaux Needler is building a perfect planned community called Assimilation, and as luck would have it, it’s being built right down the hill from the Addams residence. When the fog is cleared, she notices the home and becomes determined to rid the town of the family before her project is doomed.
This version of The Addams Family is a pretty by the numbers affair. I remember when the official trailer released months ago, my daughter watched it and asked, “this story again?” It was a great question, but there was the hope that maybe it was a misdirect from the studio to appeal to a broader audience while keeping what made the family interesting and unique. While they nailed the art style of the original comics and the personalities of the family members, they missed the mark on a lot of other things. What they did is create an average animated film and threw the Addams inside of it. Instead of focusing on the little things that make the characters tick, they put them on a broad scale and showed how “weird” they were as a family unit. Unlike a film like “Frankenweenie,” which was a great character-driven story that showed animated films with a dark side could work, this was more about how kooky the family was when looking from the outside in. And that is not what The Addams Family is all about.
While the film does most things wrong, it does get some things right. The voice cast is pretty solid for this movie. Oscar Isaac is excellent as Gomez, Charlize Theron is Morticia, Cloe Grace Moretz, and Finn Wolfhard are great as Wednesday and Pugsley. Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester is an inspired choice, and Snoop Dogg as Cousin Itt is a wonderful peculiarity. Alison Janney really plays the character of Margaux with as much Janney-ness as possible. Rounding out the cast in tiny roles are Martin Short, Bette Midler, and Catherine O’Hara.
The animation style is great as well, for the most part. Unlike past adaptations of the characters, this one skews closest to the original comic strip in its style and presentation. While everything else in the world feels generic, it’s the family and their dwellings that they got right when creating the world, and the filmmakers deserve credit for that.
And of course, there is the theme song! It’s great, catchy, and a welcome reprieve from the rest of the film.
Look, I love The Addams Family. I went into this film with an open mind, hoping that it would be better than what the trailers and promotional material made it out to be. I’m sure this film was made with the best intentions, but it just fell flat. I know it’s supposed to be a family film aimed towards children, but even our kids deserve better than this. And while it’s entertaining, and dare I say a little bit fun, it still manages to fall flat.
Rating: 4.0 out of 10
Kevin Hoskinson is a writer with a deep-seeded love for movies, comic books, television and the paranormal. From humble beginnings working the box office at his local movie theater, he’s worked his way to becoming a humble family man and professional bug exterminator. Growing up, he wanted to become an astronaut, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, and a Disney animator before he found his passion for writing as a teen. He studied film at Los Angeles Valley College with an emphasis on screenwriting and film criticism. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two kids. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @Kevin_Hoskinson, and Instagram @kevinhoskinson.