Just like almost everyone else on the planet, I loved the Addams Family as a New Yorker cartoon and just ate up the ‘60s television show in reruns. Maybe I was a little too old to appreciate the ‘90s movies when they came out, but those movies certainly had something to say about bringing the Addamses into modern times. The number of kids who grew up to become Goths after watching the show and movies must have been in the thousands, at least.
That brings us to 2019 and the latest attempt to revive Charles Addams’ creepy, kooky and “all-together ooky” family with the help of Sausage Party directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon. It sounds like a strange combination of worlds, and maybe it is.
The Addams Family opens with the wedding of Gomez and Morticia Addams (voiced by Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron) before they’re chased away by the townspeople. They end up in New Jersey, of all places, taking over an abandoned asylum high on a hill after finding the lovable lug Lurch outside and making him their butler. This preamble leads into a title sequence where we see the birth of their two kids, Wednesday and Pugsley (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz and Finn Wolfhard). The latter’s preparations for his “Sabre Mazurka,” an Addams Family rite of passage, is part of a plot that will bring the whole family to visit.
The movie then switches gears, as we’re introduced to Allison Janney’s Margaux Needler, an HGTV-like host who has built a prefab community just down the hill, not realizing the Addams’ house would be a constant eyesore to everyone to whom she’s trying to sell homes. Margaux’s answer is to try to either redecorate the Addams’ house or demolish it, whichever is easier. Margaux’s daughter Parker (voiced by Elsie Fisher from last year’s Eighth Grade) befriends Wednesday and the two girls decide to rebel against their respective mother’s strict ways while this is all happening.
I don’t want to be the old crank that trashes on the kiddie film, but it seems like I have to be just that, because a.) The Addams Family isn’t very good, and b.) it could have been so much better.
We live in a world where Adam Sandler has already made three quite entertaining “monster family” animated movies in his “Hotel Transylvania” series, which had the benefits of Genndy (Samurai Jack) Tartakovsky’s visual animation sense, as well as a strong comedy cast. Addams Family also has a number of comedy ringers like Nick Kroll, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Tituss Burgess (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), but they seem to be underused and heavily-reined in from delivering on the laughs.
Sure, The Addams Family does grow on you as it goes along, and a lot of that comes down to Moretz’s voicing of Wednesday Addams, who – like Christina Ricci before her – essentially steals the movie. Again, it seems a little obvious to have Wednesday go to a normal school to see what ensues, but after she puts her own hilarious and original spin on dissecting frogs, we’re back to the regular story before anything more can be done with a setting rife for more humor. It’s also quite fun whenever the movie cuts back to Lurch’s musical interludes, but otherwise, most of the gags go for some of the lowest hanging fruit. Even Cousin Itt is relegated to a mere last-act cameo as part of the Addams’ visiting family.
So much of this movie is targeted directly towards younger kids that adults are likely to get bored, and then every once in a while, there’s a joke so obviously meant for grow-ups. It creates a disjointed style of humor that makes it hard to stay entertained despite the film’s thankfully short run time.
Overall, The Addams Family plot seems a tad obvious and somewhat uninspired, and the animation often times looks bland and almost unfinished.
In a world where there’s so much great quality content on TV and streaming services, especially when it comes to animation, The Addams Family needed to be far better for me to recommend it unequivocally as something worth paying to see in theaters. It’s perfectly okay, but it could and should have been better.
The Addams Family is now playing across the country.