There are about half a dozen bright spots in the new animated feature “The Addams Family,” but in between them is the unbright and unoriginal storyline about how the real monsters are the ordinary people, not the weird people. Fans of ‘The Addams Family’ movies of the 90s (excluding the direct-to-video 1998 film ‘Addams Family Reunion, which was just poor) will find themselves pleasantly surprised by this new adaptation. It seems that there’s something timeless about Gothicism, most especially when it’s infused with pun-filled humour.
The animated feature packs an impressive cast which includes ‘Big Mouth’ creator and star Nick Kroll (anyone who’s seen the series will definitely recognise Coach Steve in Uncle Fester). While Chloë Grace Moretz certainly pulls off the dry, cynical tonality of Wednesday, she’s not nearly as evil as the Christina Ricci iteration, no doubt because this film is more firmly aimed at young viewers than the nonchalant PG-13 rated ‘Addams Family’ of 1991 and 1993’s ‘Addams Family Values’.
The impending influx of Addamses dovetails with the second half of the plot, which involves a cookiecutter subdivision that pops up just a stone’s throw away from the Addams’ mansion. The town of “Assimilation” (no points for subtly) is the brainchild of manically perky HGTV-eque designer Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), who plans to sell all 50 of its houses during a live TV special. She’s worried that the dilapidated Addams manor is an eyesore that could scare away potential buyers. Gomez and Morticia, meanwhile, are nervous about venturing back into an outside world that has (literally) burned them before. (Though juxtaposing the macabre with the suburban has long been a cornerstone of The Addams Family mythos, there are times when this new film comes perilously close to feeling like a rip-off of the Hotel Transylvania franchise).
The vocal performances are similarly lifeless. Few members of the impressively star-studded cast make any kind of impression. (There’s probably a fraud case to be made over advertising Snoop Dogg as the voice of Cousin Itt, given that he only delivers a handful of vocally modulated lines, all in Itt’s signature high-pitched gibberish.) Isaac, Theron, and Moretz are clearly trying their best, but they can’t do much with a painfully unfunny script that relies heavily on cheap reference humor. In one characteristic moment, a cool visual involving a cavalcade of spiders is undercut by a lame one-liner about “surfing the web.” Even when the jokes aren’t terrible, Vernon and Tiernan (working from a screenplay by The Christmas Chronicles’ Matt Lieberman and Corpse Bride’s Pamela Pettler) fail to create any kind of successful comedic timing.
To be fair, The Addams Family isn’t necessarily worse than a lot of the generic animated kids’ fare that hits theaters these days. It just feels like a bigger disappointment than, say, The Secret Life of Pets 2, because other creators have done so much more with these characters. Though the film pulls its aesthetics from the original cartoons, The Addams Family is clearly a strategic attempt to reach a generation who were raised on the 1990s Sonnenfeld films, and now have kids of their own. But like Disney’s live-action remakes of its animated classics, which target the same nostalgic audience, The Addams Family just serves as an argument for revisiting the originals instead.
Overall: The message here is extremely trite and pat… There’s not much to it, but if your kids want to see it, it’s fine.