Film Review – The Addams Family
The Addams Family
They’re creepy and they’re kooky
Mysterious and spooky
They’re all together ooky…
You get it.
It all started as a single panel comic strip created by Charles Addams as a recurring feature in the New Yorker magazine. Known for it’s stark black and white esthetic coupled with a morbid yet family friendly sense of humor, the strip was a popular attraction. The concept went on to even bigger fame as a popular TV sitcom in the mid-1960s. One of those shows that was in constant rotation for decades in syndication, that famous theme song burrowed it’s way into the pop culture zeitgeist as one of the most recognizable show openers ever. The next big round of popularity came with hit live action movie in 1991 famously starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, and Christopher Lloyd. Buffeted by an earworm of an MC Hammer song (yeah, MC Hammer), making a star out of Christina Ricci, while boasting a fun art design, it was a big hit and was followed by an underrated (and I would argue slightly better) sequel. Well, it’s about time to reintroduce The Addams Family to another generation with the new animated film.
This time around the movie starts with a pre-credits passage showing the wedding of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron). Their nuptials are interrupted by pitchfork wielding villagers, so along with soon to be Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll tearing into another of his fun accents) they retreat to an abandoned insane asylum to create their famous creepy mansion. They lock themselves away from the world for over a decade until their children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) are old enough to start questioning why they aren’t seeing more of the world. Meanwhile, a local girl is curious but scared of their house which is now found to be near the new housing development run by a chipper home improvement TV show host voiced by Allison Janney. She wants to take on the challenge of making over the Addams’ house and all of the usual culture clash comedy ensues.
The new movie is breezy light fun. Most of the time it is paced pretty well and at the screening I attended I heard enough little kid laughter to tell they were enjoying themselves which is the main reason this movie exists. But there is also not much new here either. This property has been around multiple decades and some of the gags play like their greatest hits. We get Gomez kissing up Morticia’s arm, Wednesday and Pugsley laying deadly booby traps for each other that barely miss their targets, Uncle Fester with a light bulb in his mouth while cluelessly missing the point of every comment around him, normal people from outside the family being scared witless by them, and of course the theme song with the requisite snap, snap.
On occasion new gags work their way in. Thing, the disembodied hand that acts as manservant for the family has some fun moments involving dancing on his fingers or acting as a third set of finger during a piano piece. In fact, that character has probably the best joke in the movie involving a computer that I won’t ruin here. Lurch is animated well as he lumbers around with his bass voice. He is involved in probably the second best joke during a musical number in the middle of the film. A recurring joke where the house itself keeps telling them to get out even gets a fun twist. And Snoop Dogg makes an extended cameo as Cousin It that ends up being pretty amusing.
However, there has also always been an inherent issue with The Addams Family concept. Maybe it’s because it did orginate as single panel gags instead of a longer story. But whether it was the TV show, the live action movies, or this animated outing, the idea always seems to be narratively inert. It’s always pretty much the same thing: dark but safe gags involving death and dismemberment, culture clashes with normal people, and comedic misunderstandings. But there’s rarely enough story to propel these characters through a whole movie. Individual gags work or they don’t, but every incarnation feels a bit saggy at times. Luckily this movie seems to clock in at about 90 minutes which is good for fare aimed at young children.
This animated Addams Family is more the most part fun. It has a good look which places it closer to the original comic drawings. And the tone feels like it falls in the middle between the TV show and the comic. The voice cast is energetic and fun. Charlize Theron purrs out Morticia’s Transylvania-esque sound very well. Oscar Isaac seems to be channeling Raul Julia in his voice. The rest of the cast is up for the challenge. It is breezy family friendly holiday fun as long as expectations aren’t set too high. Don’t expect much new or different. But sometimes enjoying a silly giggle with that special child in your life is enough.
Now if I can just get that MC Hammer song out of my head… Hammer don’t hurt me.