We all know about The Addams Family. Even if you’ve never seen an episode of the show, the ghoulish characters, and snap-inducing theme song are instantly recognizable. This is a story that’s lasted through the decades, initially with the classic 60s sitcom, but perhaps most fondly remembered for Barry Sonnenfeld’s 90s movies. The sequel in particular, Addams Family Values, is a dark comedy cult classic and likely the highlight of the entire franchise. But even beyond that, there’s been other television series, a Broadway musical, and now a new theatrical animated film. And even though the critical consensus has been a bit cold, I’m willing to defend it. This new Addams Family is kinder and more family friendly than what may be expected, but that isn’t really a bad thing. Despite a few flaws, the film works as a cute and funny new take on the beloved franchise.
Hand down, the best thing about this new movie is the characterization. This is a movie that really understands the appeal of the source material, and why generation after generation has loved these characters. The gang is all here, just as macabre yet loving as we remembered. The voice cast is also kind of genius, featuring Charlize Theron as Morticia, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Chloe Grace-Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, Nick Kroll as Fester, and Bette Midler as Grandmamma. They all lend themselves well to animation, and never feel like forced celebrity casting. Another aspect that feels faithful is the humor, which is mostly quintessential Addams. Much of the jokes here are much darker and drier than you may expect in a family movie, which to me, adds to the appeal. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I was laughing harder than most kids in the audience. There’s a number of great bits that thrive on the juxtaposition between the freaky Addams clan, and the “normal” general public. It’s an element they’ve always used, but one that works. This also leads into a pro-diversity message, and even though that’s been done many times before in family movies, it fits well enough here. Another solid element in the animation, which is often very stylish. The scenes with the suburbs are a bit sterile, though that’s likely the point. Whenever the Addams are on screen, the style maintains a classically spooky aesthetic. The film also takes advantage of the fact that it’s animated, giving us more weird creatures and comic explosions than what would have been done in live-action.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect movie either. Even though I’ve just praised the animation, it’s also a double-edged sword. There are many moments when the comedy is coming so fast, yet the animation is too slow to keep up the pace. Compared to the breakneck speed of the Hotel Transylvania series, this can easily feel a bit sluggish. But to be fair, those movies are Sony projects with $80 million budgets, while Addams Family is an independent production with half that. But what isn’t a budgetary issue is the story, which is a bit lacking. Instead of having an A story and a few B stories, this film basically has three B stories with no real core narrative. The subplots regarding Wednesday and Pugsley are engaging enough, but the “main” story regarding a judgmental suburban homemaker is easily the least of them. It’s essentially the same character as O’Hare in The Lorax or Nick Jonas in UglyDolls, just a stock and individuality hating villain. But if you can get past these issues, there’s a lot to enjoy in the film.
Will this version have the staying power of Sonnenfeld’s? Probably not, as those movies still get consistent replay on Freeform’s Halloween blocks. But this movie will likely be an introduction for a bunch of kids, and a fine one at that. This movie should enchant any young fans with macabre interests, while also giving Addams veterans a fun time. Even if we’ll likely never get another Addams Family Values. Wednesday setting the summer camp on fire? That’s downright classic cinema right there.