Movie Guru: The new “The Addams Family” movie is distressingly normal
The Addams Family
Rated PG for macabre and suggestive humor, and some action
Screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler
Based on characters created by Charles Addams
Story by Matt Lieberman and Erica Rivinoja
Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
Starring Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Allison Janney, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Conrad Vernon and more
Grade: Two stars out of four
For the first 15 minutes or so, I had high hopes for the newest incarnation of “The Addams Family.”
Though it was far from perfect, that first stretch of the new cartoon movie was so delightfully weird I couldn’t help but love it. I’ve been an Addams Family fan for years – I was raised on the Barry Sonnenfeld movies, and also enjoy the 1960s TV series and original comic strips – and the new movie seemed to embrace the same spirit. There were also some genuinely hilarious moments, including a new backstory for Lurch that was possibly my favorite part of the movie.
Sadly, the honeymoon couldn’t last forever. The movie slowly but surely devolved into that animated movie, the ones that always feel like pilots for some eventual TV series. “The Addams Family” follows the same formulaic structure, from the branching sub-plots that technically tie together at the last moment to the large cast of supporting characters that can be filled in later. It was still entertaining enough, and there was a good message, but the Addams’ spirit couldn’t survive long under those circumstances.
In the new movie, the Addams family moves to a crumbling former insane asylum to escape the torch-wielding mobs that chased the family out of their last home. Though they live there happily for several years, things change when a megalomaniacal home-improvement maven constructs an entire Stepford-perfect planned community right next door. While the new neighbors start to have trouble with each other, Wednesday inflicts herself on the local middle school and Pugsley worries he won’t be ready in time for his traditional sword dance.
The movie seems weirdly long for its short 87-minute runtime, in part because of the mixed success of these subplots. The Pugsley subplot, which basically serves as an excuse to have various relatives eventually show up, was tiring and took up far too much time. The insane home-improvement lady subplot, which could have been really interested, wasn’t explored nearly well enough. The inclusion of a ghost in the house, who wants the Addams’ out but also secretly likes them, was charming.
Stylistically, the movie resembles the original Charles Addams’ cartoons, though the influence of the TV series and the Sonnenfeld movies is unmistakable. The voice cast is almost ridiculously talented, and includes various supporting stars such as Bette Midler as Grandma and Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short as Morticia’s dead parents.
All together, the movie manages to be both too weird for non-Addams fans and not quite weird enough for Addams fans. It’s not the worst way to spend an hour and a half, but it’s also going to make you want to go home and re-watch the Sonnenfeld movies instead.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.