Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
At the beginning of The Addams Family (buh-duh-duh-duh… snap snap), we watch as the creepy and kooky Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) get run out of town mid-nuptials by a pitchfork-wielding crowd. Frustrated, they exclaim that they wish there was somewhere they could just be left to themselves… somewhere so horrible and abominable they would never be noticed. With that, the camera cuts to a road sign saying, “Welcome to New Jersey.”
It’s precisely that type of polite-chuckle, lazy humor that runs like a constant stream throughout co-director Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan’s update of Charles Addams’ beloved characters, keeping it from being the warped and inventive bit of fun it could have been and instead relegating it to well-that-was-fine status.
After settling in an abandoned asylum, the Addamses eventually start a family, necessitating a 13-year time jump to when Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) are adolescents. The family is gearing up for Pugsley’s Mazurka, a bar mitzvah-type occasion that inexplicably involves sword-juggling and represents a rite of passage into manhood. At the same time, television host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney)—of the Home and Garden Channel (Get it? “HAG”?)—has developed a pre-fab neighborhood called Assimilation (heh heh) just down the hill from the Addams estate, and she can’t have the gothic manor ruining her real estate dreams…
There’s more to the needlessly convoluted story (including a squandered storyline about Wednesday’s efforts to join the public school system), but, frankly, it’s not important. Presumably, you’re only in the theater because your grade school kids begged and pleaded, so just sit back, enjoy a handful of cute jokes and call it a night.
It was just three years ago that Vernon and Tiernan were helming the Seth Rogen-produced Sausage Party to great effect. “What it lacks in nuance,” I wrote at the time, “it more than makes up for with sharp humor, fun low-rent animation, and scathing social commentary on everything from religion to Middle East relations.” The Addams Family maintains the low-rent animation, but that’s about it.
Even attempts at tossing in some adult humor fall flat with barely a giggle—at one point, Thing is caught scrolling on his laptop looking at “hand porn”, while later, Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) makes a thinly-veiled erectile dysfunction joke to young Pugsley. As for the voice cast, they all turn in solid work, particularly Moretz, who deadpans Wednesday with a delicious snarl, and also Kroll, whose manic Fester injects some welcome life and humor into the film.
There’s certainly no reason to hate The Addams Family; you’ll most likely walk out of the theater with a smile and a shrug and just forget the film entirely by the time you get home. As for any hope you have of it launching an enjoyable new (revisited) franchise or being on your list of annual rewatches, those will be dashed in a snap.