Genre: CG Animation
Director: Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Allison Janney
Runtime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/MeetTheAddams/
Opening Day: 31 October 2019
Synopsis: Get ready to snap your fingers! The Addams Family is back on the big screen in the first animated comedy about this creepy and kooky clan. You may think your family is weird but the outlandish, bizarre, and completely iconic Addams Family, will have you thinking again.
If you’re expecting your ‘Addams’ to be creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, then you’re quite likely going to be disappointed with this latest incarnation of the household. Oh yes, relative to the 1960s ABC TV show, or the pair of 1990s Barry Sonnenfeld movies, or even the 2010 Broadway musical, Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon’s animated ‘The Addams Family’ is intended as a family-friendly outing through and through. There is therefore no macabre humour to be found, or in fact anything that would come across disturbing to the kiddies, so don’t go in expecting it to be any more subversive than the ‘Despicable Me’ trilogies.
That is honestly more than a bit surprising, considering that co-directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon were behind the R-rated animation ‘Sausage Party’ back in 2016; here, they seem perfectly willing to stick with the usual soft-pedalled children’s movie template, content therefore for their film to wallow in corn-ball one-liners and sight gags. These are wrapped around a paper-thin plot intended to convey a message about society’s tendency to assimilate those who are different from us (and therefore diminish their individuality) than value their diversity and integrate them into our community.
It’s a noble message, and a timely one too, even though it is conveyed as straightforwardly as you can imagine – after all, the town whose people the Addams have to confront is literally named ‘Assimilation’. That’s apparently the brainchild of interior decorator and reality TV star Margaux (Allison Janney), who is horrified that the decrepit house on the hill (which is really a haunted and abanboned asylum) which the Addams refuse to spruce up would affect the prices of the property she so dearly needs to sell in Assimilation (or go bankrupt).
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the immediate Addams which she will have to face; a parallel subplot has to do with the coming-of-age of the chubby Addams boy Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), who needs to perform a show of swordplay at a ‘sabre mazurka’ in front of all his weird and weirder relatives from all over the world. To his dad Gomez’s (Oscar Isaac) despair, Pugsley is much better at setting off pyromaniacs than he is at waving a sword around in the air, although it’s not hard to guess how Pugsley will eventually employ his explosive tactics to save the day.
Yet another subplot has to do with the Addams teenage girl Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is intrigued with the local high school girl crowd and wants to experience that life for herself. She meets Margaux’s daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher), and after defending the latter against the school bully, the pair become firm friends who not only exchange messages but also fashion tips. Her transformation earns the ire of her protective mother Morticia (Charlize Theron), who is alarmed that her formerly suicidal daughter has suddenly become an optimist.
It’s a lot and yet not quite enough for a 87-minute film, which flits from one subplot to another without fully fleshing out any of them; ultimately, the narrative serves only to string together a mixed bag of gags – some like the family butler Lurch using a vacuum cleaner to spread dust around the house during their weekly clean-up are tongue-in-cheek amusing, some like the disembodied hand wearing a wristwatch where an eyeball pops up (it’s an eyeWatch!) are unexpectedly clever, while others like Morticia calling a makeshift bridge from spiders ‘surfing the web’ are cringe-worthy.
To the credit of co-directors Tiernan and Vernon, there are bits of surprising wit sprinkled through the visual design if one pays attention, including how Wednesday’s hair is braided like hanging nooses or how her bed has a guillotine above it to make sure she wakes up every morning. They have also chosen a killer voice cast – especially a deliciously satirical Theron, a winningly disaffected Moretz and a delightfully unhinged Janney – and while comparisons will certainly be made with previous ensembles, we dare say this one holds their own.
Like we said at the start, given its mythology, you’ll probably be expecting ‘The Addams Family’ to be a lot more creepy and kooky, even mysterious and spooky. Unfortunately, this kid-centric offering stays too safe for its own good, sticking instead to the sort of defanged fun that modern-day conventional family films are comfortable with, and that applies right down to its message of embracing those who may be different from us. It is an amusing diversion all right, but it will need a lot more edge to be the finger-snapping delight its familiar theme song sets it out to be.
(Not quite creepy and kooky, or mysterious and spooky, enough, this defanged animated story is a kid-centric offering which lacks the subversive wit you'll be expecting of it)
Review by Gabriel Chong