Mission Impossible aside, I don’t think there’s ever been another franchise so closely associated with a TV theme tune as The Addams Family, at least not one that’s so immediately recognisable or long-lived. It’s incredibly iconic and the creators of the 2019 animated reboot are most definitely aware of that fact, as it’s deployed multiple times throughout the film.
Sadly, there’s not much else they get right. The whole film feels like a mishmash of the visual style of Hotel Transylvania and the slightly surreal suburban setting of Despicable Me, but without any of the charm, decent creature design or laughs that comparison may suggest. In fact, somewhat damningly, I’m struggling to recall a single moment that even raised a smile.
It’s all deathly dull; the starry cast – including Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley and even Bette Midler as Grandma – try their best but are hampered by unremarkable animation and a flat script. Even Snoop Dogg is wasted as Cousin It; given that his voice is electronically tampered with beyond any recognition, the only reason he seems to have been given the role is for the directors to shoehorn ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ onto the soundtrack for a drawn out but unfunny visual gag that was shown in trailers anyway.
Though the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed Addams Family movies in the early 90s were fairly thin plotwise, they were stylishly shot, definitely had a Gothic appeal and some quotable, memorable lines that often came from Christina Ricci’s perfectly pitched Wednesday Addams (the casting in those movies was unquestionably spot on – which does put strain on any new adaptation in measuring up to them).
The focus in this new version is partly on Pugsley’s coming of age ceremony; this immediately feels like a mistake, given how inessential the character of Pugsley often feels (seriously, remove him from the family entirely and what would be missed?). Though Wednesday gets some satisfying moments in this film, with her fighting back against bullies at the ‘normal’ school she ends up attending, she’s not given enough screen time to truly make an impact in the way that her 90s incarnation did.
The problem is that there’s too much going on and none of it particularly interesting; alongside Pugsley’s ceremonial woes, another plot running through the film concerns a neighbourhood busybody who’s determined to run the Addams out of town. The conclusion to this feels somewhat rushed and the antagonist gets a happy (albeit unlikely, given her prejudices) ending that doesn’t see her suffer much in the way of consequences for her actions. It feels wrong.
Talking of getting stuff wrong: Thing – the member of the family who’s usually just a hand is given an eye here, which makes him feel more like a small creature, rather than a disembodied hand. The eye is courtesy of a watch-like strap; this is an absolutely baffling decision that adds nothing at all to the film or the character. How is it that an early 90s film succeeded in making Thing an engaging presence without the need to embellish the character with extraneous features (not to mention using the special effects of the time), yet an animated film in 2019 fails to do so?
The ‘jokes’ really are either non-existent or completely miss the mark; as an example, there’s a ‘No Regerts’ tattoo gag – which is years past its sell by date. Visually, the characters do at least hew closer to the original Charles Addams illustrations rather than any live action interpretation we’ve seen so far – which is refreshing, or at least would be if there was a little more life in the animation.
Made on the lower end of the budget scale – and it shows, with much of that cost likely going on the cast – The Addams Family performed well enough that a sequel has already been announced for release in 2021. Here’s hoping that we see some decent writing, actual jokes and a story focusing on one or two plotlines, rather than trying to give absolutely every member of the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky family their own.
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