“The Addams Family” (2019) Review

They’re creepy and they’re spooky.  They’re not quite what they used to be.  It’s been over 20 years since their last cinematic outing, over 50 years since they first graced the small screen, and over 80 years since their debut as a cartoon column.

In all that time, this iconic family has served as a beacon for celebrating the unique and the strange.  And while this new cinematic version attempts to reconnect this franchise to its roots, it tries and stumbles mediocrely.  So let’s make like the Addams themselves and perform an autopsy on this film while it still breathes!

The Advantages of Animation
Given that the most recent iterations of The Addams have all been live action films, it’s easy that it was once an animated series in the 1970’s, or that it began as a cartoon column in the newspaper way back in 1938.  And in an incredibly refreshing creative choice, the animation of the characters is spot on to how they looked in their original debut!

Seeing this visual return to form is admittedly pretty cool.

The animation also shines with its ability to display such visuals that couldn’t be done practically.  The 1991 film had a lot of fun visual gags, but due to the constraints of working with live actors, there was just a lot that couldn’t be physically filmed.  And here, there able to do a lot more.  The film can exist in a surreal world, quite different from our own.

But of course, animation has its disadvantages as well.  Because of the overall morbid nature of the Addams, their faces aren’t animated to show a lot of expression.  Which is fitting for a still newspaper cartoon, but with characters as larger than life as this, it’s jarring when we hear theatrical voice performances being dubbed over very flat animation.

Cheesy Humor vs. Dark Humor
Part of the immense charm of the earlier cinematic versions was the great deal of dark comedy that was woven throughout.  The humor really suffers here because so many of the jokes are obvious and cheesy “dark” puns without an ounce of subtlety.  Uncle Fester is a complete joke, but not in a funny way.  More often than not, the jokes will leave audiences cringing or yawning, rather than laughing.

However, the film is not entirely devoid of good humor.  Among the sea of mediocrity, a few moments shine through.  Making the house itself a character that’s constantly telling them to get out adds a nice touch.  And while the dialogue doesn’t understand was subtle means, the animation does from time to time with a few ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ visual gags.

It also gives us our first glimpse of Gomez and Morticia before they had children. In a strange way, the opening feels like a prequel. Which is better than devoting a whole film to it.

Capturing the Iconic Characters
As far as the voice performances go, they range from bland and uninspired to decent and inoffensive.  It’s probably not far to blame Nick Kroll for whatever possessed him to portray Uncle Fester in such a goofy unfunny manner (perhaps under the directors’ direction), but at the very least he made a stylistic choice and committed to it fully.

Charlize Theron’s Morticia tries to capture a sense of elegance and morbidity, but it just comes off as monotone and boring.  Chloë Grace Moretz does a decent job as Wednesday, accurately nailing the inherent sarcasm, but she’s no Christina Ricci (but let’s face it, no one else is either).  Oscar Isaac is decent as Gomez and seems to be having fun with the role.

The oddest casting choice was definitely Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things and It fame).  He’s a great actor, but his voice has already deepened and it sounded strange hearing what is clearly a 14-17 year old teen’s voice coming out of what is supposed to be a boy under 10.

Missing the Point
The biggest offense the film commits however is failing to understand the titular Addams Family.  Here, we see them hiding out from a world that persecutes them, and denouncing assimilation, but then repainting their house and making the neighborhood more like them.

They also couldn’t resist giving us an It reference.

We see Gomez reprimand Pugsley for using explosives, just for them both to use them while playing Battleship.  Wednesday struggles with her own identity as she goes to public school and deals with a bully, just for that story arc to go absolutely nowhere.  This is a family that’s always been weird and unique, and unapologetically so.  And with all these plot and character inconsistencies, that point just doesn’t come across.

It’s not outright terrible by any means.  Most small children will probably enjoy the goofy humor, but if you’re looking for the same sharp-witted and darkly hilarious family you’re accustomed to, stick with the 90’s version!

Face it, you’ll never top this cast!

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