'The Addams Family' (2019) Review: To Die For
I know we live in a world where everything that’s old becomes new again, but I’m honestly surprised there’s a new ‘Addams Family’ movie. Beloved franchise aside, surely there comes a point where the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky family stops being relevant right? Sure, die hard fans will argue the timelessness of an off kilter nuclear family, but making a new version only opens the door for a number of painful, tired cliches and worst of all, timely pop culture references to make the remake feel “fresh” and “hip”
Thankfully, this film avoids those trappings. Mostly. It starts out by introducing you to the Addams at one of the many reasons family gets together. A wedding. Morticia and Gomez are tying the knot and ready to start their lives together. Pity that life will have to be started in exile, as the two are chased away by pitchforks and torches before their marriage can even be consumated (a fact I’m sure was rectified post haste knowing the couple)
I like the way the film sets the stakes for the characters pretty instantly. The Addams have every reason to distrust and even fear the outside world, which is why, 13 years later, the children Wednesday and Pugsly are trapped in the walls of Casa de Addams. Protected from the outside world in Nemo-esque fashion, Wednesday decides she belongs in public school with the other people her age.
You see a rebellious Wednesday doing everything she can to give her already near dead mother a killer heart attack. For Morticia, that means dressing in cheery colours, singing, and even threatening a smile. It’s easily the funniest storyline in the film and by far the most meaningful. Less so can be said for Wednesday’s brother Pugsly, whose storyline of trying not to disappoint dad Gomez, more or less feels like it was ripped from a low stakes Saturday Morning Cartoon
The themes in both storylines are apparent. Addams family wants to teach kids that it’s okay to be yourself, regardless of tradition or what you might have been taught. What the movie goes a step further with is a message of acceptance. Wednesday doesn’t have the years of resentment to make her fear the well meaning members of the public. When she befriends local suburban girl Parker, the two bring out the best in each other, and make for an interesting and meaningful story.
Something that I was most excited for with this movie, was how the animation would be used to tell the story. Despite being a movie about people who often appear to be without a pulse, the animation is surprisingly energetic. There are action scenes in the film that don’t feel like they should work but somehow do. What’s more than that, the animation is used to bring about important themes and character motivations. One shot in particular had Wednesday Addams standing infront of the locked gate to her home. In the shot, Wednesday is profoundly small, and the gate is egregiously large, symbolising just how insurmountable of an obstacle the gate is, restricting her from the outside world. Several times in the film the animation will be used to skew reality in a way that serves the story and the characters.
There are of course downsides to ‘The Addams Family’. Pugsly’s storyline never quite elevates to the level of Wednesday’s, even if the two tales come together at the very end. The humour is mostly on point, but other times, it’s so in your face it becomes obnoxious (The suburb full of “normies” is called the town of “Assimilation”), and while Chloe Grace-Moretz, Oscar Isaac, and Charlize Theron are all phenomenal as Wednesday, Gomez, and Morticia, they’re brought down by Finn Wolfhard’s Pugsly, which sounds like less of a performance and more like a first time script read. Not to mention Nick Kroll’s Uncle Fester which isn’t a bad performance per se, but is bound to be a distraction for anyone familiar with Kroll’s character Coach Steve on ‘Big Mouth’
Yet despite the numerous problems, I found ‘The Addams Family’ to be refreshing. I laughed much more than I didn’t, and I was happy to see a kids movie tackle issues like the fear of the other, the danger of social media misinformation, and of course, identity, with such skill. It’s enough to make me say it’s well worth the full price of admission, despite its flaws.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
For more ‘Addams Family’ madness, check out our podcast where we discussed the original live action film in the eyes of someone who had never seen it before.