The Addams Family Review
How do you classify a remake? It's easy enough in the case of films like the spate of 2000s horror reboots - a standalone film from the 80s is remade for the new millennium - but when an IP has been passed down for over half a century, it's hard to know how to classify new iterations. Take The Addams Family: a single panel weekly comic, turned sitcom, turned live-action film, turned live-action sequel, and most recently turned CGI animated movie. Rather than having a definitive source text, the property has evolved with each iteration from its humble beginnings, and each adding new elements to the story. Not only does the 2019 reimagining refuse to add anything particularly new or interesting to the Addams oeuvre, it also waters down their weirdness for broader public consumption, ironically undermining its own message in the process.
The plot of any story involving the Addams' tends to involve an aggressively conventional third party trying to tear down their glorious strangeness - on the fifth time around, this is getting a little old. After beginning with a bizarrely unnecessary origin story, the highlight being Morticia stapling her earlobes for wedding jewellery, the main conflict of the film kicks in: the Addams' gothic home doesn't fit the aesthetic of a new planned community and the reality TV presenter who designed the place wants them out. You can see where this is headed: the new town realises that being different is cool, actually, and embraces the Addams' wholeheartedly. There's no subtext present, to the point where the town is literally named 'Assimilation', and while the narrative of an Addams movie shouldn't usually take precedent over the gags, it's frustrating to see such an obvious story rolled out again, especially when promoting a message of individuality.
It's clear that the vast majority of the budget went on the blindingly star-studded cast: Charlize Theron as Morticia, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, and Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday to name a few. However, someone should have explained to the producers that a big name doesn't necessarily translate to a great vocal performance, because most of the cast seem uncomfortable without the ability to rely on body language. You can't get away with reading the lines as you would in a live-action film, which is why much of the dialogue sounds stilted and dull - this works for Moretz as Wednesday, the most deadpan character, but for the most part just drags down the energy of the movie.
I have to admit, when I heard that the animated version of the Addams was going to be in 3D CGI, I was immediately disappointed. It just seemed as though eerie Henry Selick style stop motion or a surreal 2D style would suit the family better; most studio rendered CG animation has a tendency to smooth out all the edges that the Addams would revel in. Sadly, this turned out to be the case, and The Addams Family is actually one of the worst looking animations made by a major studio I've seen for a long time. The character animations are stiff and awkward, and there's an unfortunate lack of expression in the overall look of the film considering the distinctiveness of the source material. None of this is helped by the decision to utilize the designs of the characters from the 1930s comics - I don't want to knock the originals, but these creations weren't made for movement, and it's clear in how much of the film looks that they struggled with bringing them to life.
Similarly, this film is also hindered by being directed primarily at children. Because of the raunchier 90s films, many of the iconic images now associated with the Addams family are less child-friendly: Gomez puffing on his cigar, Morticia referencing her love of BDSM, and Wednesday attempting to kill people with a range of weaponry. While some of the violence is permitted to remain, the sexual content is entirely gone, taking away a crucial element of what made the last set of Addams media work: the matriarch and patriarch flaunting their bizarre sexuality to an uptight world. By allowing some of this content to sneak in through a higher age rating, The Addams Family might have had a little more edge - but there's money to be made, and we can't sacrifice a single ticket for a better film!
I'm honestly not sure who the target market is for this Blu-ray beyond parents who'd be better off taking their kids to see Onward, but if you are interested in picking it up, you'll find a fairly standard array of special features, sprinkled with kid-oriented extras like Charades with Thing and lyric videos for the two pop songs written for the movie.
If you're some kind of Addams superfan, this film isn't overly offensive, and I can see you getting some enjoyment out of it. But for the vast majority of potential viewers, who likely just have some fond memory of the Addams from the show or 90s films, you're better off rewatching what came before, and not wasting money on what amounts to a shadow of their former glory. In this version of The Addams Family, they aren't creepy, kooky, or spooky; they're just disappointing.
The Addams Family (2019)
Dir: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan | Cast: Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Oscar Isaac | Writers: Charles Addams (based on characters created by), Conrad Vernon (story by), Erica Rivinoja (story by), Matt Lieberman (screenplay by), Matt Lieberman (story), Pamela Pettler (screenplay)