The Critics Were Altogether Ooky
It’s been a bit since we’ve had a steady flow of solid macabre CG – for a while there things like Igor and Monster House and Frankenweenie and the Hotel Transylvanias were all the rage. Fitting, then, that the classic family of creep should have received an October of 2019 (back before the real world became a freak show) big screen CG animated feature film.
Produced by MGM and directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (the guys behind the unfortunate Sausage Party), The Addams Family was built upon a fairly modest budget of only $24-million and managed to return nearly 10-times that amount ($203-million) at the box office alone. As always when a movie turns those types of profits, work on the sequel began immediately and should be released theatrically on October 22, 2021.
The 87-minute film eases its viewer into the well-established mythos by providing something even the earliest incarnations seemed to glance over – backstory. The film opens with the literal wedding of Gomez and Morticia (Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron respectively) being cut short by a pitchfork-wielding mob that sends them fleeing into the terrifying wastelands of… New Jersey. Total missed opportunity for a cameo by the surely-strapped-for-cash cast of Jersey Shore.
Anyway, once safely in NJ, we are offered up backstories for the meeting of their butler Lurch, their discovery of the creepy abandoned mental institution they come to call home. We jump ahead thirteen years in the timeline to find the family situated with its pair of children; Wednesday and Puglsy (Chloe Grace Moretz and Finn Wolfhard).
It’s this era that serves as the meat and potatoes for the tale and works off the cliché’ but thankfully subtle concept of it being okay to be different socially. And while this seems to be the biggest complaint by critics, it’s certainly difficult to stage a kid friendly villain against a family who juggles swords and plays with missiles in their spare time.
I suppose, then, it makes pretty good sense to make conformity the greater enemy here and then to personify it in the form of Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), pretentious star of a home makeover reality show with the schtick of making all the homes she remodels in the town of Assimilation the same. Sure it’s a bit on the nose but thankfully there are other threads at play amid this central plot point. Among these Wednesday attending Jr. High for the first time after years of home, er I mean “caged” schooling and Puglsy preparing for a coming of age ritual among monsters known as mazurka.
The charm of the script is accomplished less in witty dialog or memorable character exchanges and more through its visual setups. Some personal memorable moments were when the daughter of the film’s antagonist (Parker) transitions to goth mode and the bottom of her shoe reads “meh” or when baritone Lurch happens to break out into REM’s Everybody Hurts in uncharacteristic falsetto. Cousin It is portrayed with a “big pimpin’” twist, going so far as to have his trademark gibberish voiced by Snopp Dogg in an an angle that’s criminally underplayed even if I did chuckle at the license plate on his lowrider reading “CUZ” upon arrival to the mansion.
Staple character Uncle Fester is along for the hijinks as well and is voiced by Nick Kroll doing his Coach Steve voice from his animated series Big Mouth.
The vocal cast does a great job with the material, especially Oscar Isaac as the caring if slightly oblivious Gomez. The voice direction was given a monotonous subtlety that balances well with the onscreen, oft larger than life, visuals.
All in all it’s important to remind the naysayers who argue that this interpretation of the beloved franchise fails to capture the dynamic of their own favorite incarnation (do keep in mind that since its inception in 1938, countless forms of media from Saturday morning cartoons to live Broadway shows have come to pass) that this latest film does not erase those that came before it. Rather it introduces a slightly hipper version of the material to a generation with the capability of accessing nearly every earlier example of the property right on the phones in their pockets if they are so inspired. I mean in what other version can you find Thing running around with a Fit-Bit on his wrist?
Besides, if this one didn’t do it for you, the next installment is just a little over a year away.