Review: The Addams Family (2019)

Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, co-written by Matt Lieberman, Erica Rivinoja and Pamela Pettler. The eccentrically macabre family moves to a bland suburb where Wednesday Addams’ friendship with the daughter of a hostile and conformist local reality show host exacerbates conflict between the families. Voiced by: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Allison Janney, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess, Jenifer Lewis and Elsie Fisher.

Tackling a beloved family that’s been around for over 80 years, from satirical cartoon to television to film, each platform has embraced their oddities and shared them with audiences of all ages, and trying to recapture that is a tall task. To cut to the chase, it’s a task that this film wasn’t prepared for and cannot meet. On paper, using the voices of such famed actors like Theron, Moretz and Wolfhard sounded like a great idea, and they certainly draw in viewers but not a single one of them has a strong enough personality to their voice, or an individuality to do justice to their respective characters. You’re taking personalities that are infamously different, unusual and a little twisted then giving them generic voices, that don’t reflect that at all. The romantic, baritone of Morticia, with her darkly flirtatious cadence is completely lost upon Theron, while Isaac does retain more of Gomez’s charm, it still doesn’t hit anywhere close to previous adaptations that provide the deeply devoted and poetic character. The only one of the characters that’s genuinely involved in the story and utterly fits is Allison Janney but that should be of no surprise to anyone, she has a strong voice full of emotion and personality and never disappoints.

Yet, it’s perhaps the least problematic part of the film’s confused representation of the family, it nearly obliterates their macabre sense of humour and replaces it with small glimpses within an empty story. The animation feels too shiny, perfect and clean to work well with characters such as these, it well reflects the suburban minions side of the story but jars against the Addams’. Then there’s the writing, not only is the story overly simplified and rushed, it’s completely outdated and full of references that only a very, very small handful of child viewers would ever comprehend. Early on there’s a reference to ‘Put the Lime in the Coconut’ a song which is rarely used these days given it’s nearly 40-years old and there’s also the Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood theme song, a lot of it feels like jokes that might have been fitting for a child of the 70s or 80s, not 2019. It entirely feels out of touch with its audience, flashing it’s vibrant colours at them in order to distract from its lack of tone and plot. The plot goes really no further than the synopsis, it takes most of the runtime before it kicks in and lasts about 5-minutes, while their exploration of the family in the rest of its duration is completely unsatisfying. It has no form of subtlety in its message of non-judgement, it says it right out and again, only lasts very briefly.

Here they had an opportunity to appeal to all ages, to hit the younger generation with these weird and wonderful characters and give some nostalgia to the older generation but it’s difficult to see how this film will be enjoyed by more than just its youngest of viewers. Its meagre and oddly used origin of the family in the beginning does little to introduce them, especially given it takes place before the children are born. There’s also the utterly baffling choice to have Lurch singing R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts’, another outdated reference and something so far out of character that it makes zero sense how it found its way into the film, and the assumed emotional moment it’s trying to elicit is extremely forced. Perfectly reflected again by the entirely out of place highlight reel at the end of the film, which feels like it’s trying to trick the audience into thinking they enjoyed the film.

The Addams Family does a disservice to those that came before it, while with some work it could have potentially made a better television series than film, there are too many elements that worked on paper but didn’t in reality. Despite having four writers to its credit, there’s nothing to grab onto, no personality or sense of humour and only a flimsy plot. There’s a huge amount of talented actors who have lent their voices to this project but again, it does a disservice and too many of them aren’t suited to the characters they’ve been given. It’s a classic case of a swing and a miss, they took a chance and it didn’t pay off.

Verdict: ✯

Available on Netflix now

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