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The Addams Family

2019-10-11 06:41
 
A scene in 'The Addams Family.'

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

The latest adaptation of Charles Addams’ classic cartoon series, Gomez, Morticia and the rest of the ghoulish but loveable Addams clan prepare for Pugsley’s coming-of-age ceremony but must first deal with a reality-show host who wants to use her "neighbourhood makeover" show to transform the Addams and their spooky, former-asylum home into something that will fit in with the peppy, conformist aesthetic of her manufactured neighbourhood.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

The amount you will enjoy this "reboot" of the Addams Family depends almost entirely on what, if any, of their former exploits you will have previously seen.

For those who have never had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of this bizarre, macabre but weirdly highly functional and loving family will probably find plenty to love here as it stands out from the more sanitised kids stuff out there by sticking close to the Addams Family’s outlandish and darkly comic roots. For those who are unfortunate enough to remember the last Addams Family movie, the dreadful Addams Family Reunion from way back in 1998, this is also a very fine return to form.

For those, however, who know of the Addams Family from the two films from the early ‘90s – The Addams Family and its superior sequel, Addams Family Values – this latest version is a far harder sell. Unfortunately, this is very much where I’m coming from. I recall seeing some of the animated series from around the same time but, to me, the Addams Family is all about those two films from my late childhood that made so strong an impact that I remember them even now, literal decades since I last saw them.

Do they still stand up? I have no idea, and I’m somewhat reluctant to find out. In my mind, though, they’re as fantastic as ever. Armed with a spectacular cast and a wonderfully twisted aesthetic, these films with their mix of unabashed sentimentality, unforgettable characters and a hilariously dark and demented sense of humour, were a left-field treat that couldn’t not stand out from the more conventional fair that I was undoubtedly subjected to at the time.

Going in with this sort of sentimental attachment and a head full of still pretty vivid memories of a couple of my favourite films from when I was a kid/ young teen, certainly doesn’t do this reboot many favours. Mind you, though that is countered somewhat by just how nostalgic a trip it turned out to be as it was, at the very least, a blast to be hanging out with some old favourites that I hadn’t really thought about for years. Sure, they look and sound a lot different, and they are stuck in an unfortunately fairly blah plot but, even in their new form, the likes of Thing, Cousin It, Lurch, Morticia and Gomez and, most especially, Wednesday Addams (who all but walks away with the entire film) are as good company as ever.

I also certainly appreciated that in an era of tetchy "outrage culture" and, worst of all, the unbearably sanctimonious "anti-indecency group", One Million Moms, it’s hard not to love a movie that is as macabre, comedically violent (yup, Wednesday and Pugsley are still trying to kill each other, and their parents in an increasingly ludicrous manner and all is still right in the world) and anti-conformist as this. It’s not a complete outlier, of course, as Laika Studios, in particular, has recently given us some fantastically ghoulish and often thematically mature "kids films" in recent years, but this is still very much the Addams Family as I remember them and not some boringly PC "update".

All that said, though, it’s hard to fully recommend the film and harder still not be disappointed by it – and that despite my going in expecting the worst. The film has a seriously top-notch voice cast but none of them come close to capturing that quintessential Addams Family vibe in the way that the likes of Raul Julia (RIP), Christopher Lloyd, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci did, and the art design and animation is never as consistent as I might like (inspired touches mix with run-of-the-mill modern animation tropes).

More even than just not feeling like this depiction of the Addams Family wasn’t quite right, though, which is unquestionably my own baggage, is that the plot is incredibly lacking and the storytelling basically fairly half-hearted. When there are so many outre pleasures to be had in the film’s black-comedy, its embrace of the weird, and, most especially, in its timeless characters, it’s crushingly disappointing that so much about the film just comes across as incredibly... rote. It all plays out with such bland predictability that when you reach the end of its snappy, 90-minute runtime, it’s hard not to think, “wait, was that it?” as the credits begin to roll.

So, yes, if your (older) kids haven’t seen the Addams Family before, you could do far worse than taking them to see this – though, of course, you could do far better by just showing them those ‘90s classics – but while older fans can breathe a sigh of relief that it doesn’t entirely let the side down, it’s certainly not going to replace most previous versions as the definitive take on these characters.

Just a quick post-script, apropos of not very much, but is it just me, or did the Addams Family convert to Judaism somewhere along the way? The "accepting the strangers in your mist" moral applies to any minority group living in a wider culture but between Pugsley’s coming-of-age ceremony coming across like the world’s most demented bar mitzvah ceremony (including reading from the Torah, er, sorry, the "Terror"), Bette Midler playing Grandma Addams with a healthy dollop of yiddishe mama about her and Nick Kroll playing Fester as a very slightly more cartoony version of his "Oh Hello" character, Gil Faizon (charmed, I’m sure), I would swear that the Addams clan are now "members of the tribe". Can’t say I saw that coming and I may be way off base, but if not, we’ll take ‘em!


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