It’s safe to say nearly everyone alive is familiar with the Addams Family. Originally the creation of cartoonist Charles Addams, the ghoulish family has served as a parody of the American nuclear family since the 1960s. Classy and stylish, the Addams Family takes pleasure in both their Gothic lifestyle and their twisted fascination with the macabre. They always managed to push the bar without being inappropriate, and their success resulted in a famous TV-series, numerous films, and even a stage musical.
On October 11th, MGM introduced the Addams Family to the next generation – only this time, it gets the 3D rendering that all animated films receive these days. I confess I’m not entirely sure what to think about this flick. It’s not good, but it’s not bad either. There are many things the film gets away with thanks to an animated approach. At the same time, though, the Addams Family falls flat mainly because the audience knows what to expect from both the film’s story and design.
The Addams Family, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tieman (whose credits include Shrek 2 and, yes, Sausage Party), opens with the backstory behind Gomez and Morticia Addams, played respectively by Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron. After a lynch mob descends on their wedding, the newlyweds Gomez and Morticia take up residency in an abandoned asylum and make a family. Thirteen years later, the Addams Family falls into the crosshairs of local interior designer and reality TV show host, Margaux Needler (played by Allison Janney).
Unable to exploit them for her show’s ratings, Needler seeks to run them out of town by spreading a web of rumors online. While Gomez and Morticia put up with Margaux’s harassment campaign, their children – Wednesday and Pugsley (played by Chloe Grace Moretz and Finn Wolfhard) – experience the usual burdens of their teenage years, from bullying to peer pressure. As the population of a nearby town rally against them, the Addams Family must come to terms with their lifestyle in an ever-changing world.
On a good note, the Addams Family takes a unique approach by portraying the family in the original style of Charles Addams’ cartoons. Many are familiar with portrayals of Gomez and Morticia by the likes of John Astin and Carolyn Jones, but rarely do they see the initial concepts behind their characters. Gomez and Pugsley are a tad more plump and lively while Morticia and Wednesday are thin and sickly looking. This allows the audience to identify with the characters more quickly than they might with real-life actors and actresses.
The film also has its gags and funny moments, which audiences expect from the Addams Family. Wednesday and Pugsley routinely torture each other while Gomez and Morticia blithely carry on with their demented lifestyle. All the while, their butler, Lurch (played by Conrad Vernon) lumbers around the home while Uncle Fester (played by Nick Kroll) unwittingly falls on the end of Wednesday and Pugsley’s antics, usually in the form of arrows being fired at him. Even in a computer animated medium, the characters audiences know and love come through very well.
On a bad note, though, said gags tend to fall a little flat these days. Maybe it’s timing, or maybe it’s the fact that audiences know what’s expected with the Addams Family. Early in the film, Pugsley decides to give Gomez a scare by literally launching a rocket his way. It flies past the oblivious Lurch and explodes just short of Pugsley’s intended target. There’s a gag here that fans of the Addams Family might appreciate, but otherwise, it’s just another flashy scene among many in this film. Other scenes, such as the family’s “whine cellar” – where a keg is uncorked to release a literal stream of whining voices – come off as cheap and uncreative. The film juggles with a number of jokes, and it is either hit or miss throughout the runtime.
Probably the biggest problem – I hate to say – is the computerized approach itself. In a way, it’s appropriate for the Addams Family to be portrayed in this style. Their shenanigans – such as the scene mentioned above – work a tad better than they would if real actors and special effects were put to use. Unfortunately, with almost every Disney and Pixar film following this model, it does not bring anything new or creative to the table. What was once visually appealing, such as Toy Story and Shrek, is now just another computer-animated flick.
If anything, the film does have a decent message about being different when everyone is pressured into following trends. The family’s main predicament emerges in the form of a nearby township dubbed Assimilation. On taking their first steps into town, the family comes across a flash mob that asks, “What’s so great about being yourself when you can be like everyone else?”
It’s interesting to see the Addams Family dropped in today’s world, and they occasionally wreak appropriate havoc on a society obsessed with materialism and social media. Likewise, this saves the film from being too dull to enjoy. There’s a little bit of social commentary with this one, and the Addams Family has always demonstrated how the American family is more complicated than people think. The film may be a little late to the scene, but the characters still manage to lampoon the nuclear family of today.
For fans of the Addams Family, this flick will be a nice trip down memory lane. It’s respectful to the subject matter and tries with what it has. For newcomers, it’s a decent introduction to this wicked family and has its humorous moments. Otherwise, it’s a film a little late on the scene. No harm in trying though, and the movie does indeed try.
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