Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The Addams Family ★☆☆☆☆

The live-action Addams Family films of the early 1990s are among the most beloved in the cinematic subgenre of the macabre and gothic, with Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams something of a style and snark icon for cynical millennials. But, over 20 years later, Hollywood has decided that it is time to reboot these characters in a new, all-star animated adaptation of the beloved fictional family. Originally appearing in the late 1930s as a New Yorker cartoon, the family appear here in a much more faithful visual aesthetic made possible by animation – but outside of that, the film is pretty poor. Lacklustre and totally restrained, the film is nothing more than a forced lesson in diversity.

Members of the mysterious and spooky Addams family – Gomez (Oscar Isaac), Morticia (Charlize Theron), Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Grandmama (Bette Midler) - are readily preparing for a visit from their even creepier relatives. But trouble soon arises when shady TV personality Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) realizes that the Addams' eerie hilltop mansion is standing in the way of her dream to sell all the houses in the neighbourhood…What follows is, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, a study of assimilation and acceptance of the unusual family in modern society.

Okay, so The Addams Family is a family animation with a particular focus on a younger audience – made particularly obvious by just how tame the film is. For an Addams Family romp, I expect a bit more spookiness but here, the characters feel more normal than ever. While the animation is adequate and, as discussed, certainly faithful to the family’s original look, it leaves a lot to be desired by today’s standards. Bland, textureless visuals make the film feel cheap and rushed, which is a big issue for an animated film – especially one that should be transporting the viewer into the dark, twisted and macabre world of the Addams Family.

The Addams Family is a huge disappointment for anyone with any fond memories of the characters from the 1990s films of 1960s TV series. Aiming this film at children was a bizarre choice – it is unlikely that the majority of the viewers here will have any knowledge of the characters, and while that will probably improve their enjoyment, it is not faithful to the characters’ tone. If they use this film as an introduction to the 1990s films, for example, they will be confused as to why they are so different. Parents will be uncomfortable by the overly sanitised adaptation that feels disappointingly bland, soulless and dull. Watching this new adaptation, I was waiting for things to get livelier, funnier and more entertaining…and then it ended. The film felt like a coiled spring that never got a chance to explode into life.

But as I have always said when reviewing children’s films, it is difficult to criticise too heavily when the target audience is an entirely different demographic to myself. It is likely that youngsters will enjoy the film – but when adapting such a beloved franchise like this, it just feels so wrong to be so careless with the characters and legacy. Despite good efforts from a stellar voice cast, The Addams Family has absolutely nothing else going for it and will, unfortunately, serve as a very dark and damp squib on an otherwise iconic franchise.

Sam Love

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