THE ADDAMS FAMILY

Reviewed by GREG KING

Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Stars: voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Alison Janney, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Elise Fisher, Conrad Vernon, Snoop Dogg, Titus Burgess, Pom Klementieff.

Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz in The Addams Family (2019)

The ooky, mysterious and kooky Addams Family was created in 1938 by cartoonist Charles Addams as a satirical and subversive take on the typical American family and their values. The Addams Family was originally published in The New Yorker from 1938 until Addams’ death in 1988. The cartoon characters were brought to life in the offbeat tv sitcom that ran from 1964-66 and which starred Carolyn Jones and John Astin. There was an animated tv series in 1973 (featuring the voice of Jodie Foster), and there were two live action feature films from Barry Sonnenfeld in 1991 and 1993 respectively, and even a Broadway musical and video games. And now The Addams Family has returned to its animated roots in this new full-length film from Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon (who co-directed the raunchy Sausage Party).

We first meet the Addamses in a prologue where Gomez (voiced by Oscar Isaac) is about to marry Morticia (Charlize Theron). But the nuptials are interrupted by the local townsfolk armed with pitchforks and flaming torches who drive the creepy family away. Looking for a safe place to settle Gomez and Morticia eventually wind up in a remote part of New Jersey, where they move into an abandoned and run-down former asylum located atop a fog shrouded hill. The asylum was home to Lurch (voiced by Conrad Vernon), who becomes their loyal butler.

The central plot kicks in thirteen years later. When the dark clouds that have shrouded their spooky looking house clear, the Addams discover Assimilation, the picture-perfect planned development below their hilltop home. Conniving and self-absorbed reality tv host and celebrity real estate developer Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) has plans to sell off the fifty custom built houses but feels that their eyesore of a mansion could ruin her plans. Margaux has placed spying equipment in all the houses and uses this technology to slowly turn the townsfolk against the Addamses, who have refused to spruce up their run-down house.

The perpetually glum, morbid, rebellious but bored Wednesday (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz) attends a local high school for the first time, where she confronts a couple of bullies and befriends Parker (Elsie Fisher, from Eighth Grade), who happens to be the daughter of Margaux. Meanwhile yjr chubby Pugsley (voiced by Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) is preparing for a traditional rite of passage, a complex ritual dance known as the sabre mazurka, that sees family members from all over the world arrive.

The screenplay has been written by Matt Lieberman (the upcoming family friendly comedy Playing With Fire) and remains faithful to the spooky and oddball charm of the original source material. It’s a very busy film with several subplots that seem to have been borrowed from several episodes of a potential tv series revival of The Addams Family and which give it an episodic feel. Lieberman works in universal themes of acceptance, not judging people by their looks, teen angst, bullying, mob mentality, conformity versus individuality, the impact of social media, and the importance of family bonds.

The computer-generated animation is full of colour and movement and some slapstick physical action which will entertain the youngsters. Older audiences familiar with the tv series will appreciate some of the in-jokes and references, some gross out humour, and clever visual gags. The animated characters certainly capture that unique look and design of the characters created by Addams, and the house itself is certainly creepy looking with lots of darkened corners and cobwebs. However, the eccentricities and weirdness of the extended clan seem to be a bit passe now, especially in the wake of the antics of the similarly themed Hotel Transylvania series of films.

Isaac is smooth as Gomez, but Theron seems to lack that sultry quality that both Jones and Anjelica Huston brough to the role of Morticia. The vocal cast also includes Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, Bette Midler as Grandma, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, and Snoop Dogg as the hairy cousin Itt.

★★★

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