The Addams Family Movie Review: Spooky, ooky but not kooky enough
The sheer number of subplots involving the much-loved mavericks of macabre proves to be the undoing of this 87-minute film.
Does a normal person look at an asylum and think of it as the perfect place to sleep for the night? Does a normal bride walk down the aisle holding just the stems of roses? Does a normal family have a polar bear rug in the house that is actually a... live polar bear? Well, The Addams Family has been anything but normal since its inception in 1938. Every adaptation of Charles Addams’ work has so far looked to question the socially-accepted meaning of ‘normal’. The latest adaptation, by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon (who has also done voice-acting for the “perfectly demented" Lurch), is no exception.
Director: Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan
Cast: Charlize Theron, Oscar Issac, Chloe Grace Moretz, Allison Janney
This time, the much-loved mavericks of the macabre, Morticia Addams (Charlize Theron) and Gomez Addams (Oscar Issac) not only have to co-habit the demons inside the Addams Family House but contend with them inside Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), the tweenage children of the family. They also hope to establish their non-demon credentials to their next-door neighbours. The sheer number of subplots proves to be the undoing of this 87-minute film.
You expect major culture shocks when the Addams Family visits the newly-constructed Assimilation Town, a picture of everything that is perfect and homogenised. But all you get is a joke and a half, and a song about the futility of being unique. "What's so great about being yourself when you can be like everyone else" goes the song and the caricaturish villain Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), who lives by this mantra, tries to bring the Addams Family in line or end them. The other subplot involving Wednesday and her fitting in into the vicious world of junior high school isn't gratifying at all, save for one good scene. The same holds good with Pugsley's Mazurka, a rite of passage of sorts, which brings together the various members of the Addams Family for the first time in years. The enjoyment in seeing Pugsley blowing things up, Wednesday trying to injure her brother and Uncle Fester, and Lurch playing the keyboard and yodeling, doesn't quite mask the frailties in the film. How can you have an Addams Family movie without showing Gomez shower unadulterated love on Gloria? How can the Thing be relegated to just doing things that hardly make use of the things the Thing can actually do? In looking to hammer down the message, the makers let go of family intricacies that make the story spookily endearing.
Every time the Family revels in being worried, uncomfortable, horrible, or even being blown up, it’s the familiarity with this family that helps us enjoy the moments. Watching Morticia's icky spiders forming a bridge over a sinkhole is as wonderful as seeing Lurch read Little Women. Watching Wednesday walking into the Addams household with a unicorn hair clip is as fantastically mortifying as seeing Cousin Itt walking in with a Snoop Dogg soundtrack. But the central conflict and its resolution is too pedestrian for a group like the Addams Family. It doesn't make sense to rob the family of its trademark mysteriousness, kookiness, and creepiness to give us a barebones version of a typical American family.
While I do agree that an argument about a manipulated "us vs them" argument is even more relevant in today's political atmosphere prevailing all over the World, the means are as much important as the end. This is where The Addams Family falters like one of Pugsley's various contraptions, without being half as much fun.