Directed by: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Premise: An animated adaptation of Charles Addams’ cartoons. Morticia and Gomez Addams (voices of Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac) emigrate from their country of origin and raise a family in a secluded new home. A suburban housing development threatens their isolation.
What Works: The Addams Family has been around since 1938 when the characters first appeared in Charles Addams’ cartoons. Since then the Addams Family has starred in television sitcoms and feature films. The 2019 picture reimagines the material for the contemporary audience and it is quite successful in transporting the characters to the modern age while maintaining everything that defines them. For this version, the Addams Family lives in an isolated home adjacent to a suburban community that’s been recently built by an overzealous house flipping reality television star (voice of Allison Janney). The movie pits the Addams’ ghoulish sensibilities against the sterile and plastic perfection of prefabricated neighborhoods. But the filmmakers take matters a step further and turn the assimilation critique on the Addams Family themselves. Teenage daughter Wednesday (voice of Chloë Grace Moretz) rebels against her family’s strictly gothic style and meets resistance from her parents. This film also adds an origin story in which the Addams Family flees persecution in their homeland and Morticia and Gomez have diverging reactions when they discover their neighbors; Gomez wants their approval and Morticia desires to stay isolated. That is a little more sophisticated and intelligent than we often find in family-oriented films. One of the appeals of the Addams Family is that, despite their macabre look, they are a family who face recognizable problems. That quality comes through and each character gets their own subplot which dovetails together in the ending. This film is also quite witty. It has plenty of allusions to other movies but it’s never obnoxious about it and the references are layered inside of other jokes and set pieces that stand on their own.
What Doesn’t: We are now in a period of superior animated films produced by studios like Pixar and DreamWorks Animation and Laika Entertainment. It’s become a refined genre with these studios consistently producing high quality films. The Addams Family is as entertaining as any of them but its animation is not competitive with the work of other animation houses. The story of The Addams Family is also conventional family fare. The movie revisits themes and storylines we’ve seen before in movies like Despicable Me; parents have to let go of tradition and children learn to value their family. This movie stays well within the boundaries of what’s been seen before although the filmmakers do it well.
Bottom Line: The Addams Family is a satisfyingly smart new version of a familiar property. It’s still the Addams Family but in a way that speaks to the contemporary audience. The movie is witty and intelligent and ought to appeal to both children and their parents.
Episode: #772 (October 27, 2019)