The Addams Family has existed since the late 1930s. Created to be an inversion of the ideal American family, they are depicted as a band of creepy, ghoulish people whose interests deal with rather macabre topics. However, they are also portrayed as very nice people who are neighborly and willing to help. They aren’t evil people, their just different.
Now the Addams family (voiced by Oscar Issac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, and Nick Kroll) has been brought to the 21st century with a new origin story and a new batch of supporting characters to freak out. When their home turns out to be on the mountain overlooking a manufactured neighborhood headed by TV host Margot Needler (Allison Janney), the family decides to check out modern life, which goes about as well as one might expect.
Their usual antics are off-putting to the citizens of the town, and threaten the stability of Margot’s envisioned “perfect neighborhood.” As the family begins to assimilate into the modern world, she begins to concoct a plan to do away with the freakish clan. But the Addams aren’t willing to give up without a fight, and will do anything to prove that they are just a normal family despite their differing interests. So, how does their new adventure compare to their other iconic stories?
The Addams Family boasts a stellar voice cast and an opening act that manages to capture the spirit of the titular family, but once the film begins focusing on the new additions, that’s when things go south. The film is hampered by some truly terrible animation, in both the setting and the supporting characters, that looks unfinished compared to modern theatrical animated films, and a pedestrian story that forces an overused, maudlin message down our throats.
Let’s start with the good, because there is one thing that almost saves the film; the cast. The voice cast is phenomenal, both in choice and performances. Particular praise should be given to Oscar Issac and Finn Wolfhard, who’s portrayals of Gomez and Pugsley Addams respectively truly embody the crazed nature of the characters. The cast gives so much life to the beloved characters that they almost help prop up the less-than-stellar film.
The other surprisingly good thing about this modern portrayal of the family is the opening act. The first 30 minutes of the film are loaded with clever little jokes and visual gags that perfectly capture the spirit of the family. There are little bits of morbid humor that the classic characters are known for, even if the film does have the tendency to turn away from a good portion of it. Still, it’s nice that they tried.
The animation is one of the biggest letdowns of the film. For being a modern animated film made for a theatrical release, it looks like the kind of kids film released straight to DVD. Sure the designs of the title characters work, but all the supporting characters look like strange, plastic dolls moving across a poorly rendered play set (something Wednesday humorously comments on in a bunch of unintentionally meta jokes). Seriously, if you don’t have the budget or resources to make good CG animation, don’t bother.
This film is also proof at how soft studios think kids have become. The Addams family is known for their delightfully morbid sense of humor, which comprises of jokes involving death, torture, insects, ghosts, and generally all things spooky. All this was played with enough light satire that kids would laugh while adults would get what they really mean. However, this film does away with a lot of said morbid humor, treading tired modern gags and only implying the demented things they say and do. It’s played more for laughs than previous incarnations, which could frustrate fans of the original stories.
Like most modern incarnations of old characters, much of what made them who they are is thrown out in favor of making them reflect modern viewpoints. While this film doesn’t do this as much as anticipated, it does place the characters in an underdeveloped storyline that forces the tired “accepting people for their differences” message in our faces. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if 1) we hadn’t seen that storyline millions of times prior and 2) the Addams family was built on that logic, but they weren’t. It just doesn’t work.
The Addams Family isn’t as bad as one could have expected from a modern interpretation of a 1930s bunch of characters, which only makes it more disappointing that it wasn’t something more. The voice cast is pitch perfect and there are several gags that harken back the the characters’ early days, but the poorly produced animation, unoriginal story, and frustrating willingness to play it safe keep it from being what it could’ve been. The Addams family deserves to live on as American cultural icons, just not like this.