The origins of The Addams Family may be older than you think. Cartoonist Charles Addams first created this eccentric creepy family for pages of The New Yorker magazine in 1938 and continued making the single-paneled cartoons through the artist’s death in 1988. Then in 1964, the characters became alive for the ABC TV series that starred Carolyn Jones and John Astin. The family received an animated treatment by Hanna-Barbara in 1973. Since then, the family pops up again every few years in the form of a new movie (The Addams Family, 1991; Addams Family Values, 1993; Addams Family Reunion, 1998), TV show (The New Addams Family, 1998) or even a Broadway show. MGM’s new animated movie of the franchise is sort of a tribute of all of those previous projects combined done a fun, playful manner.
In a way, this new animated film brings the franchise back to its roots. The characters resemble more closely to Addam’s original artwork and begins with the wedding of Morticia (voiced by Charlize Theron) to Gomez (Oscar Isaac) which is quickly interrupted by the local villagers who run them out of town. Tired of running, Morticia states that she wants to find a home away from people where they can start their family. As luck would have it, they stumble upon an abandoned insane asyluym, and they (literally) run into Lurch (Conrad Vernon), whose last residence was that very asylum, and make him their new butler. Later, daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) is born followed by Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). The children are “cage-schooled” and the family lives life peacefully alone.
Years later, Gomez and Morticia prepare for a large family reunion for Pugsley’s “Sabre Mazurka,” a rite of passage ceremony where the boy is set to prove that he is ready to become a man worthy of the Addams’ name. Unfortunately, Pugsley is way over his head. Meanwhile, down the hill, a home designer and TV personality, Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) has been busy building a new community of “perfect” homes where everyone and everything looks the same. But when the fog lifts, she is horrified to learn of the huge eyesore that is set up on the hill. The Addams’ home will ruin her town’s home values if she can’t get them to let her remodel it.
Upon meeting the Addams, Margaux’s daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher) meets Wednesday who learns about a thing called “junior high school” where anyone can attend. She’s bored with her quiet life of (literally) torturing her brother and wants to experience more. The two form a friendship based on their frustrations of having to live under their mothers’ expectations of them. Of course, all of this comes to a head when the rest of the Addams come to town including Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), Cousin It (Snoop Dog), Grandma Addams (Bette Midler), Great Auntie Sloom (Jenifer Lewis) and a whole host of other characters.
The Addams are the original goth family with a morbid sense of humor played straight. Yes, some otherworldly creatures and spirits reside here, but Christian parents shouldn’t get too uptight over them. It’s all done for humor and not to be taken seriously. In fact, this tale is really a metaphor.
One of the best things about all the versions of The Addams Family is how they never seem to understand how weird they are. In reality, all families are a little weird and co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Vernon get that. In fact, a lot of the “normal” people in their film have strange and exaggerated features that are almost scarier than the Addams crew. In the end, this is a tale about accepting others as they are without having to “fix” them; a lesson a lot of folks at church need to learn.
As good as this movie is, as a whole, it is uneven. Moments of brilliance (who knew Lurch could sing?) and jokes (“Usually there’s a murderous clown behind these” Morticia says to Wednesday referring to her red balloon) are followed by conflicts that get resolved too easily or are forgotten. The animation style is beautiful in some scenes and rather odd in others. But these are just picky complaints. Overall, the MGM found a way to make an old property contemporary without losing the charm of the original as well as making it a fun romp for all ages with kids and adults laughing at different things. After a singalong version of the classic TV theme song (go ahead and snap your fingers), the credits end with the fun song “My Family” by Migos, KAROL G, Snoop Dogg and Rock Mafia with lyrics that include, “You don’t wanna mess with me. ‘Cause if you mess with me – You’re messin’ with my family.”
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.