The Addams Family first debuted in comic strip form in 1938. A family who live for the macabre and shun “normalcy,” their adventures were adapted into two live-action series’, two animated series’ and two well-liked feature films. Since they were popular in the 60s and the 90s, two different generations have nostalgia for them. So it is no surprise we are now going back to the well again with the CGI animated comedy The Addams Family, an attempt to jump-start a new franchise eighty years after the property was initially created. Sadly, it does not capture the charm that has made them a hit multiple times over.
Gomez and Morticia Addams are a couple that love the bizarre and deadly. Unfortunately, they have been run out of every place they have lived by townspeople terrified of what they do not understand. They finally find a creepy, abandoned house, isolated atop a hill, and raise their children there. Thirteen years later, they discover an entire town at the foot of their hill. And their house does not fit into its designer’s idyllic vision.
The Addams Family is not a movie that spends much time on its plot, which is the predictable stuff about individuality and acceptance. Its style is more of the “loose story surrounded by unrelated comedy” variety. Most of its 81 minute running time (without the end credits) is devoted to a collection of gags built on the Addams’ strange routines, as well as their ignorance at how odd they seem to others. Some of this is amusing though, at best, it elicits light chuckles. The cast is good and the animation is fittingly spooky, in a goofy way. The real problem is it just is not funny enough. A lot of the jokes are about their matter-of-factness in the face of horror (very cartoonish horror; this is definitely intended for family audiences). There is never a new spin to them, so that gets repetitive pretty quickly. The characters are still weirdly lovable, but the world around them is far too uninteresting for their antics to delight.
The best thing about it is how fully the voice cast inhabits these familiar personalities. Oscar Isaac is enthusiastic and loving as Gomez, incredibly comfortable in his own skin. Charlize Theron is worried and protective as Morticia. I found Chloë Grace Moretz to be the funniest as the ridiculously straight-faced Wednesday. Finn Wolfhard has less to do as Pugsley, caught between irresponsible kid and manhood. They are all enjoyable. On the negative side, Nick Kroll’s oblivious Uncle Fester is quite annoying. He came off as more off-putting than silly. However, everyone involved, including the supporting performers, seem to really get what makes these people who they are. This is a remarkably respectful production that rests on its premise for its humor, instead of doing anything clever with it. Like what they are doing is supposed to be funny just because they are doing it. There is depressingly little creativity at the screenplay level.
The Addams Family works as a reminder of who these characters are. It is less successful at being entertaining on its own merits. I guess it plays the hits decently enough if that is all you are looking for. I wish it also did other things. Comedy is extremely subjective, so your mileage may vary, but I did not have much fun with this. Rebooting a franchise only to do the exact same stuff that has already been done before seems like a waste. Yet the energy here makes me believe this cast and crew has a good Addams Family movie in them. This is not it.
2 out of 5
Oscar Isaac as Gomez Addams
Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams
Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday Addams
Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley Addams
Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester
Bette Midler as Grandma
Allison Janney as Margaux Needler
Elsie Fisher as Parker
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler