Synopsis: Members of the mysterious and spooky Addams family are readily preparing for a visit from their even creepier relatives. But trouble soon arises when a shady TV personality realizes that the Addams’ eerie hilltop mansion is standing in the way of her dream to sell all the houses in the neighborhood.
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Allison Janney, Elise Fisher
Director: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Running Length: 87 minutes
TMMM Score: (5.5/10)
Review: I have to admit when it was announced an animated reboot of The Addams Family was on its way to theaters…it happened. It was a long time coming and always inevitable…but it happened. I turned into one of those people that suddenly became overly protective of what had come before, treating it as some precious commodity that was untouchable. How could they think of making another movie without the likes of Angelica Huston, Christina Ricci, or the late Raul Julia? And animated? True, the two live-action films were cartoon-y in their own way and The Addams Family had already been seen on the small screen as colorful cells on Saturday mornings for young audiences but I just didn’t want this particular property messed with. Plus, this world that was created by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938 was so smartly macabre I wanted it kept the way it was and left uncorrupted.
After what seems like a long path to movie theaters, The Addams Family has arrived with excellent timing as a Halloween outing option, though I was dismayed to see numerous parents ushering their young tykes into Joker playing next door instead. It’s a mixed bag of a movie with some good elements in the form of spirited vocal performances and a droll script with a good message of acceptance that has a few genuine laugh out loud lines. On the other hand, the animation is particularly ugly and off-putting, which in some cases may have been the point but largely was just bad design.
Part origin story (which I quite liked), we see how The Addams Family made their way to live in an abandoned asylum on the top of a hill in New Jersey. Gomez (Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year, an excellent successor to Raul Julia) and Morticia (Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde, curiously less successful) have raised their children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz, Greta), and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard, The Goldfinch) in relative isolation, keeping them away from the rest of the world that was so cruel to them when they were young. The family is preparing for a gathering of the entire Addams clan for Pugsley’s mazurka, a sword-dance his father has been trying to teach him that is of little interest to the mischievous imp. Preferring to play with bombs instead of blades, father and son can’t quite connect on this important upcoming event. At the same time, when a bubbly big-haired TV makeover host (Allison Janney, I, Tonya) comes knocking hoping to re-do the gloomy Addams manse to fit in with the entire town of Assimilation she has just made-over, Wednesday becomes more curious with life outside their small lot and asks Morticia to go school and not be “home caged” anymore, a request that causes the blood to drain into Morticia’s face, one of several funny visual gags.
The bulk of the film is taken up by these two competing storylines revolving around the children, with equal time given to both. When the family begins to arrive and Pugsley gets put in the spotlight, it gives the animators room to create more peculiar Addams relations that would likely have pleased their original creator. Though he seemed popular with the crowd when I saw the film, I could have done with far less of Uncle Fester…but maybe it was just the way Nick Kroll (Vacation) has voiced him like he has a numb tongue that started to grate on me after a while. I got a kick out of Bette Midler (Hocus Pocus) as Grandma and you can judge for yourself if Snoop Dogg (Pitch Perfect 2) earns his credit for voicing Cousin Itt. There’s plenty of visual flair to these larger animated scenes, aided a bit by the 3D upgrade I sprung for which added some extra depth to the expansive Addams mansion.
I just couldn’t quite get over how grotesque most of the animation so often looked. Apart from The Addams Family who have their own ghoulish glow about them, the rest of the townspeople are all spindly legged monstrosities that are really off-putting. Perhaps that’s what the team was going for, to show some parallels between the family and the townspeople that judge them but…I just don’t quite buy that easy out. There’s just too many hastily rendered faces with eyes that are so close together you can count them as one and mouths that look like stop signs. Speaking of disturbing, there’s far too many moments where sharp objects (arrows, swords) either enter the mouth, the head, or the back…it’s nearly all with Uncle Fester so it’s a gag but it was over-the-top for my taste.
In all honesty, I should have been able to let go a little more from the outset because so much time had passed between the last live-action film released theatrically (Addams Family Values in 1993) and this new one from directors Conrad Vernon (Kung Fun Panda 2) and Greg Tiernan (Sausage Party). An entirely different generation has emerged and deserved being introduced to their own version of The Addams Family like I was back in 1991 when the first movie came out. It inspired me to look back at the original television series and the original Charles Addams cartoons and might do the same for some kids today as well. I’m glad this option is available in theaters now to encourage a family night out at the movies, parents can take their kids to this one without much concern.