Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
The Addams Family is a 2019 computer animated reboot of the beloved franchise of the same name. The franchise began life as a comic, became a classic television show, and then spun off into two excellent 90’s films, The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values (we will say nothing of the unfortunate Addams Family Reunion film).
As someone who grew up loving this franchise, I was beyond excited when I learned a reboot was coming. My excitement largely came from the fact that I thought the new film was going to be a stop-motion animation directed by Tim Burton. How disappointed was I when I learned it was yet another CGI children’s film and that Burton had nothing to do with it.
Still, I decided to give the movie a chance. I am a big fan of this franchise, after all. So much to the point that it’s remarkable I haven’t yet written articles about the 90’s films, which are my favorite installment in the franchise (as I’m writing this, I’ve been contributing to this website a little over a year now).
First, I’m going to discuss what I didn’t like (might as well get that icky business out of the way), and then I’m going to discuss what I did like.
The Corny Jokes
One of the things I always loved most about The Addams Family was the clever, dark humor. There was something witty about the jokes, and yet they weren’t inappropriate. Children and adults could appreciate it.
Back in The Addams Family 90’s reboot, Morticia (Anjelica Huston) can be seen doing some spring cleaning for a charity auction.
“Uncle Knickknack’s summer wardrobe. . . . Uncle Knickknack’s winter wardrobe . . . . Uncle Knickknack . . .”
And the films were full of this kind of dark humor: Wednesday (Christina Ricci) drinks poison when she’s forced to go to summer camp, Fester (Christopher Lloyd) offhandedly mentions being followed by store detectives, Morticia is unperturbed by the explosives and weapons in Fester’s suitcase, and there are many hilarious cannibalistic jokes as well.
When a woman jokes about “eating a child up” because he’s so cute, Morticia replies in astonishment that the child is too young for that, while later at a party, Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) falls asleep on a serving platter and Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia joke about eating him.
There was very little of that in this film. Instead, we were given corny jokes that even a child wouldn’t laugh at – despite the fact that (rumor has it) the more witty jokes were trimmed out and dumbbed down for a younger audience.
When it comes to children’s entertainment, the worst thing you can do is dumb it down.
In the picture above, Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) is firing rockets and bombs at his father, and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) can be heard quipping, “They blow up so fast.”
Another one: “We call this ‘surfing the web’” as they walk across spiders.
Just kill me now.
The Villains Were Typical
The villains of the film are Bethany (Chelsea Frei) a blonde bully at Wednesday’s junior high, and Margaux (Allison Janney), an evil blonde woman who is overly concerned with being fake-nice and “helping" people who are different fit in. She is trying to sell houses in her aptly named neighborhood Assimilation and wants the Addams gone because their hideous house on the hill is frightening off customers.
Though she appears blonde and pretty and kind on the outside, Margaux is actually the face of evil, spying on her neighbors with cameras, forcing her daughter to dress like a Japanese pop singer, and inciting an entire town to a violent rage against the Addams, who have done nothing to her except be something other than what she considers “normal.”
Margaux was a pretty standard villain, and Bethany was . . . okay. My problem with them is . . . We’ve done this before.
Remember Amanda Buckman and Debbie, the blonde villainesses from the 90’s hit, Addams Family Values?
Amanda (Mercedes McNab) first appeared in The Addams Family as an annoying Girl Scout who bothers Wednesday and Pugsley while they are selling lemonade.
She later appears in the sequel as a preppy blonde girl at their summer camp. She and her crew of vapid clones hate Wednesday and anyone who isn’t blonde and bubbly. As a result of this, Wednesday and Pugsley aren’t the only outcasts, as the other outcasts at the camp include brown kids, fat kids, and quiet introverted kids who like to read.
It’s a(n accurate) depiction of discrimination in American society, a society where anyone who’s not a bubbly, perky, extroverted, blonde Anglo-Saxon is an “other” and therefore worthless scum.
Amanda is such a horrible snob that it’s hilarious to watch Wednesday terrorize and humiliate her.
As an interesting side note, McNab went on to star as yet another snobby, preppy blonde on the hit 90’s show, Buffy.
Debbie (Joan Cusack) is likewise another horrible blonde pretending to be sweet and nice, only her motivations are a bit different from Amanda’s. While Amanda is just an annoying teenage girl with some growing up to do, Debbie is actually a murderer wanted in five states. She has been given the moniker “Black Widow” by the police, as she enjoys marrying rich men and killing them on her wedding night.
Her next target is Fester (who – ironically – was after the Addams family’s fortune only a few years before). She puts on a sweet and innocent act in an attempt to woo Fester, marry him, and take his riches. Meanwhile, Fester is so desperately lonely that he fools himself into thinking that Debbie loves him and marries her almost overnight.
The hilarious thing about Debbie is that she didn’t have to put on an act at all. If she had been her real, murderous, crazy self, Fester would have loved her – as is evidenced by his approval of her digging up his mother’s corpse just to get her hands on the woman’s priceless ring.
For all her clumsy acting, Debbie couldn’t hide what she truly was, and that darkness is what Fester fell in love with.
Likewise, in the 2019 reboot, Fester (Nick Kroll) winds up falling in love with Margaux, whose evil he can’t help but feel drawn to.
Meanwhile, Bethany wasn’t tortured or humiliated like Amanda. After she bullies Parker (Wednesday’s new friend), Wednesday threatens her, she is frightened off, and that’s the end of it. It really wasn’t even done that well. Bethany was an underutilized character who purely existed to make Wednesday look cool . . . except Wednesday’s scene where she intimidates Bethany isn’t really that great.
Perhaps Margaux and Bethany were a homage to Amanda and Debbie, in which case, good on the writers. But in all honesty? They really weren’t done that well and both depictions wound up being . . . really disappointing.
I am so f****** tired of CGI!!! I was so, so, so disappointed when I learned this film wasn’t going to be stop motion animation but, ugh, CGI.
Don’t get me wrong. CGI is amazing and useful in many ways. It’s also overused and overdone. It’s possible I hate it because I grew up in a time when filmmakers and actors actually used creativity and imagination to create beautiful, realistic characters and worlds.
Jim Henson was innovative in this. He found very clever ways of bringing costumes and puppets to life. The bad guys in The Dark Crystal, for instance, were giant puppets that were rigged and maneuvered pretty neatly, the end result being that they looked real (and real scary), rather than like fake cartoons.
To be fair, the Addams started out as cartoons, but I miss real actors and costumes. I miss stop motion animation. I miss tiny puppet-dolls.
Look at friggin’ Lurch, for God’s sake. This is what we used to have! Actors in makeup who looked real!
And I don’t know why, but stop-motion animation just looks better than CGI. It takes a lot of time and patience to film tiny puppets that are moved inch by inch, but the end result has always been worth it.
Now here’s what I loved about the film.
Morticia and Wednesday’s Arc
Aside from her great voice acting, I thought Morticia’s (Cherlize Theron) entire arc with Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) was pretty decent.
Morticia and Gomez are both somewhat overbearing, concerned parents who want their children to follow family tradition. Instead, Wednesday and Pugsley rebel and insist on following their own paths.
Rather than become a great swordsman like his father, Pugsley wants to be a demolitionist, while Wednesday wants to experiment with wearing colors, socializing, and trying new things.
It’s hilarious every time Wednesday comes home with something pink on. Her rebellion slowly escalates from a pink unicorn barrette to a balloon to a full pink outfit.
Watching the shock and confusion of Gomez and Morticia is wonderful. They are baffled by a pink piece of confetti on Wednesday’s dress, and Morticia can’t understand why Wednesday’s balloon doesn’t have a homicidal clown attached to it.
I thought that much, at least, was done well.
Wednesday and Pugsley’s Rivalry
The rivalry between Wednesday and Pugsley was also well done.
The same way Bart and Lisa eventually switched roles on The Simpsons (Lisa started out Bart’s minion and eventually became smarter than him), Wednesday and Pugsley have been known to do-si-do. In some depictions (such as the Saturday morning cartoon), Wednesday is younger and is often the victim of Pugsley’s pranks, while in other depictions (such as the 90’s films) Wednesday is older and attempts many times to kill Pugsley.
I thought the opening credits were hilarious in how they showed Wednesday’s many attempts to kill her brother. Soon after he is born, Wednesday has got an ax and is creeping up on baby Pugsley. In the next painting, she tries to hang him, and in the last painting, she can be seen pointing a crossbow at his head.
There is also a hilarious scene where Wednesday tricks Pugsley into climbing inside a freshly dug grave. He asks why, and she ominously says in the most suspiciously ghoulish way ever, “Because you’re my brother and . . . I love you.”
Pugsley is dumb in this depiction, so he trustingly turns his back, gets hit over the head with a shovel, and buried alive.
Gomez and Morticia's Wedding
I also enjoyed the fact that this film tries to give the Addams a backstory. In other depictions, it’s never really explained how the Addams family came to be living in their spooky house on the hill or where they came from, etc.
In this film, we are shown Gomez and Morticia being chased from their wedding in “the old country” by an angry mob. They decide to move to a godforsaken place where they won’t be bothered ever again (New Jersey), and when they arrive, they stumble across an abandoned insane asylum on a hill.
They actually hit Lurch with their car, who is wearing a straitjacket and is one of the escaped mental patients. They assume Lurch is now their servant (for whatever absurd reason), and Lurch goes along with it (because he’s nuts) , carrying their luggage up the hill to the asylum.
Addams Family Theme Song Creation
We are then treated to an entertaining scene where Lurch comes up with the Addams family theme song. As Thing dances along the top of the organ, Lurch experiments with different melodies, until he finds one that Thing starts snapping to.
Dun dun, dun dun. Snap. Snap.
This becomes the Addams family theme song.
I also thought it was cool how Parker (Elsie Fisher) became an Addams through her mother’s marriage (?) to Fester.
Parker is a girl who is very lacking in self-awareness. She initially dislikes Wednesday and thinks she’s a “freak,” despite the fact that the two of them have so much in common.
Like Wednesday, Parker is an outcast, likes wearing black, and out of all the “normal” people in the film, she’s the only one not utterly terrified of the Addams family’s house. At the beginning of the film, she goes right up to the gate on her bike and stays there for a long while, watching the house. Her approach of the house is ultimately the reason Wednesday wants to go to junior high with the other children.
Wednesday helps Parker embrace who she really is, and by the end of the film, Parker is unapologetically dressed in full black and is unashamed of her friendship with Wednesday.
Parker also has one of the funniest lines in the film,
“My mother has a secret lair and a prison? I knew I should have picked to live with my father.”
It Wasn’t Bad but It Wasn’t Good Either
Ultimately, this film wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either .It was mediocre. It had no real spirit or creativity. There was nothing really memorable about it. It was just yet more fluff to entertain children (one in many of an endless amount of random, boring children’s films of late), and no real effort appears to have gone into the writing or the characters or the world they inhabit.
It makes me all the more eager for a Tim Burton stop-motion reboot.