This Fall saw the return of two incredibly popular gothic families to the small screen. Both were the basis of sitcoms from the 1960’s, both were Halloween icons, both were being adapted by very iconic/divisive directors whose reputations among fans aren’t what they used to be, both were shot in Eastern Europe, and finally both were being released directly to Netflix in September and November of 2022, respectively.
The amount of circumstantial similarities between the two is so eerie that it’s quite befitting the types of characters these stories are about. So given these numerous similarities, we thought it would be fun to compare them head to head and objectively decide (as objectively as possible) which is better: Rob Zombie’s Munsters or Tim Burton’s Wednesday!
Round I – Cast
Usually for this first round, we focus on characters, but it’s been specifically changed to cast because for both of these adaptations, the characters are already beloved and have been around for decades. So the real test is how these iconic characters are being portrayed by the actors in each adaptation.
At risk of beating a dead horse, we need to talk about Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. It’s genuinely heartwarming that a married couple enjoys working together so much that Rob puts Sheri in every single movie of his, whether she’s right for the part or not. And sadly, The Munsters is an example where she wasn’t a good fit.
Her portrayal of Lily Munster feels more like a bad SNL impression than an actual character. Jeff Daniel Phillips is awkward at best, but at least he’s committing to the odd choices he and Zombie are making. Daniel Roebuck is only one of the trio that really captures the essence of his character. He perfectly balances evoking the spirit of Al Lewis, while also giving the character his own spin.
Tim Burton’s Wednesday felt much better cast, with almost every character. Jenna Ortega perfectly embodies the deadpan wit and sarcasm of Wednesday Addams. And props need to be given to Catherine Zeta Jones for her elegant take on Morticia.
Luis Guzman was fun as Gomez, but he felt a little too reserved and held back compared to how we’ve seen the character before. But Burton also brought in former Wednesday actress Christina Ricci who worked greatly as a new character. Bottom line is, Burton’s casting was far more on point than Zombie’s.
Round I Winner – Wednesday
Round II – Style/Tone
This round feels like a race to the bottom for both, and it’s honestly very difficult to decide. One doesn’t have as much style as we’d hope due to the constraints of a rushed TV schedule and budget. And the other makes very bold choices, but it’s very debatable if any of them are good.
It’s no secret that Burton isn’t quite the director he was in the 90s, and that for many years, his films have more misses than hits. And that’s not at all to say that Wednesday is a miss. It’s well-made and well-acted, but it’s far more “just okay” than it should be. It feels more like a CW show than something that the incredibly stylistic Tim Burton directed. When we first heard the news over a year ago that Burton was making this series, we expected a lot more than just okay.
All that said, Rob Zombie gives us the closest thing to a live action cartoon with his Munsters movie. The jokes are corny, the colors are bright and vibrant (which was his middle finger to Universal because they refused to let him shoot in black and white), and the characters and their voices are downright goofy at times. But there is a definite style and creator’s intent that just doesn’t feel present in Wednesday.
Round II Winner – Munsters
Round III – Story
Both adaptations are vastly different stories than what either set of characters has really done before. Rob Zombie decided that his movie would be more a prequel that would end with the start of the iconic sitcom. We see the creation of Herman Munster, his courtship and marriage with Lily, and how the family ends up living at their house on Mockingbird Lane.
Amidst the movie’s many flaws, the idea of a prequel works in that it doesn’t break the continuity of the original series, and it gives Munsters fans something they haven’t seen before. The only downside being that characters like Eddie and Marilyn never get to appear.
Likewise, we’re also used to seeing the entire Addams Family together, but Burton’s series focused much more on the titular character of Wednesday as she attends the Nevermore Academy. Unfortunately it means we don’t get too much of Gomez, Morticia, or Pugsley. But we do get a genuinely interesting and thrilling mystery as Wednesday attempts to solve a series of murders caused by a monster of sorts.
Granted, everything at the school with the different cliques feels very YA, and the whole tone of the series is very Riverdale/CW. But it does a good job for the intended audience. And it weaves a far more detailed and intricate story than that of Zombie’s Munsters. Although, to be fair, it does have 8 episodes to do this versus a single movie, but still.
Round III Winner – Wednesday
Round IV – Adaptation
For this round, we’re sort of doing the opposite of the last one and looking at how good and accurate each of these adaptations is to its source material. Wednesday is a more interesting story, but it does divert a great deal. Its biggest sin is not giving us very much of the Addams family itself.
It’s much more teen-centric with the school setting and has been criticized by some for trying too hard to be Harry Potter. It also introduces sirens and werewolves into the Addams family mythos and acts like they’re normal parts of that world, but then the “normies” still don’t believe Wednesday when she tells them about the monster killing people.
And while pretty much everyone criticized The Munsters movie for being too campy, corny, and ridiculous, did any of them watch the original sitcom? Almost every joke back then was corny and what we would now call a “dad joke”. People would fall over and they would play cartoonish sound effects, which Zombie did as well. In fact, the main issue that people took with Zombie’s film (other than the terrible casting) was that it seemed to be made for the 1960s sitcom audience instead of a modern one.
So while most people preferred what Burton did with Wednesday, we have to hand it to Rob Zombie that his adaptation felt much more in line with the campiness of the source material.
Round IV Winner – Munsters
Round V – Technical Specs
This is probably the easiest category to call, and unfortunately it’s not at all close between them. The fact is one of these adaptations had a much larger budget, which we try not to hold against any movie or series. But the fact is Wednesday has a much more polished look with better just about everything. And The Munsters looks like something that was shot on an iPhone in 2010.
Round V (and overall) Winner – Wednesday
Which one do you like better? Let us know in the comments!