Film review: ‘THE ADDAMS FAMILY’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

As most people of a certain vintage would know The Addams Family was as a quirky 1960s TV show that, alongside The Munsters, Bewitched and I Dream of Genie formed part of a trend in supernaturally themed sitcoms. In their creepy and creaky haunted mansion, the Addams family were living horror tropes with the Vampira-like mother Morticia, the sullen ghoulish daughter Wednesday and the mischievous and destructive son Pugsley. Exactly which horror character the Castilian father Gomez was meant to invoke was a little unclear but he was still a riot. After the successful TV show and two dark but popular movie adaptations in the 90’s comes the animated film version from directors Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Sausage Party) and Greg Tieman. This energetic, if mechanical film tries to be a little too much at once as it delivers an origin story, a teen movie pastiche, a parable about accepting difference and a comment on contemporary American fears.

After being chased from their hometown by a pitch fork-wielding mob, Morticia (voiced by Charlize Theron) and Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) find refuge in an abandoned hilltop asylum in, where else but New Jersey. A decade on, they have a family with two children, a pet lion, a large taciturn, Frankenstein’s monster-like butler named Lurch and the disembodied hand ‘Thing’. Wary of the so-called ‘normal’ world, the Addams’ mist-shrouded mansion proves a haven for their oddball lifestyle which largely involves a celebration of medieval torture techniques and all things creepy including the suspicious Uncle Fester. Their strange gothic utopia is threatened, however, when Margaux Needler (Alison Janney) the obnoxious host of a reality TV renovation show and matriarch of the ultra-bland nearby town of Assimilation, decides the Addams mansion and the family are an unacceptable blot on the landscape and sets out to eliminate them.

This is essentially the same plot as The Castle and so many other ‘lovable oddball versus arrogant corporate meanie’ films so it won’t take Nostradamus to work out how it will unfold. Beneath this story are sub-plots about Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) fretting over his coming of age sword fight ceremony and Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) rejecting her parents’ Halloween-themed lifestyle and embracing teen girl attitude. The film makes a valiant effort to do justice to each plot thread but ends up jumping manically between the different scenarios. Add to that some over-the-top and noisy effects and the film at times becomes grating.

Still, its dig at current American attitudes is amusingly perceptive as the monstrous Margaux, who has a noticeably Trump-like bouffant, uses propaganda, social media and surveillance apparatus to manipulate the town into rejecting the supposedly dangerous interlopers, the Addams Family; there’s even a reference to children in cages.

While the film extracts a few laughs from the Addams’ kooky antics and Margaux’s conniving fear campaign, it just isn’t as funny as it needed to be. Tellingly, there were a lot of distracted kiddie’s chatting to each other during the preview screening.

This incarnation of The Addams Family is endearing enough and the star-studded voice cast members are generally impressive but it doesn’t meet the standards of recent animated masterpieces like the Toy Story films which have admittedly set the bar very high.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Animated comedy/ drama.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Conrad Vernon and Greg Tieman.

Release date: 5th Dec 2019.

Running time: 87 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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