Movie Review: ‘The Addams Family’

Directors: Conrad Vernon and Greg Tierman

Cast: Oscar Issacs, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Conrad Vernon, Snoop Dogg, Allison Janney, Elsie Fisher

Plot: Newlyweds Gomez and Morticia Addams set up a home in an abandoned and haunted asylum hoping to be left alone to indulge their own macabre interests and raise a family. Conflicts within the family and the arrival of a planned community put their ‘idyllic’ life at risk.

Review: If there’s only one thing to be said about Charles Addams’ gothic newspaper and subsequent adaptations, it’s become timeless. They’ve become such an integral part of pop culture that any given generation would be able to recognise name if not name each character and recite the theme music. Barry Sonnenfeld went a long way to keeping the legacy alive with his excellent pair of movies in the early 90s, and it’s surprising it took a this long to get them back onto our screens.

Our new adventure with the grim but loving Addams family begins with the wedding of Gomez (Issacs) and Morticia (Theron), who are quickly set upon by villages with pitchforks and torches. Desiring a safe sanctuary to raise a family they move to New Jersey, where they find a haunted old asylum to turn into a home, complete with an escaped patient to employ as a butler. Jump forward thirteen years and the family has been expanded to include Wednesday (Moretz) and Puglsy (Wolfhard).

A large part of the enduring appeal of the Addams is that they have always been a tight-knit, loving family who shun societal trends and expectations in favour of living the life they enjoy. Although this includes a fascination of dark, macabre topics there’s nothing evil about the Addams, and they never deride anyone else for living differently. Stories about the Addams are at their best when they’re banding together to protect themselves from external threats, and that’s where this new films stumbles.

The main conflict comes in the form of uber-Karen reality star Margaux (Janney) who has designed a planned community on the border of the Addams’ property and want rid of them. Straight-forward and simple, the Addams resisting against the Stepfords. But we also have several internal conflicts among the family. Pugsly is approaching a familial rite of passage he his not prepared for, Wednesday is rebelling by going mainstream and Gomez doesn’t have faith in Morticia to host a major family event and has called in Uncle Fester (Kroll) and Grandmama (Midler) to help, but to his wife’s chagrin.

We feel that the movie would be much stronger if focused on the conflict against the people of the planned community of ‘Assimilation’. The archetypical busy-body home-owner association type who drums up moral panic against the Addams using social media neighbourhood watch groups is believable and as annoying in the film as they are in real life. There’s an interesting idea when Wednesday points out that her family isn’t any different, forcing their own ideas of what is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ onto their children, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Instead we end up hopping between one conflict to another without any of them getting enough screen time. The movie is at it’s best when the Addams are being their own kooky selves to the horror of the local neighbourhood, and this would have been best served with a singular focus on the Evil Karen, not the Addams squabbling.

Although the movie wasn’t able to give us a solid new story to bring the beloved family of misfits into a new generation, it did manage to do the family right. Using the original designs of Charles Addams’ New Yorker comic panels rather than reinventing the wheel was a smart move, and the aesthetics are all eye catching and in the spirit of things. They also assembled the perfect cast for the iconic roles, although we were disappointed that Oscar Isaacs isn’t playing a live action version of Gomez, because that would be amazing. Isaacs, Theron, Moretz, Wolfhard and Midler are on point, and Nick Kroll is there too.

For a concept that started as satire of surburbia this is a toothless but fun movie. There’s a scene where the townspeople are holding up a ‘burning torch’ app on their phones when trying to force the Addams out of town. If the film-makers had balls they would have given them tiki torches.

Rating: SIX out of TEN