The family Addams has evolved over the eight decades since its inception as a single panel cartoon in the New Yorker. What began as a satire on the post-war nuclear family unit has blossomed into an amusingly macabre beacon of “otherness”. The franchise attracts to it outsiders, the freaks and geeks who struggle to identify with the banality of 2-point-4 suburban existence. The selling point for the family is that, despite being outwardly bizarre, the Addams’ themselves are incredibly well-adjusted. They may look frightening but they are happy, welcoming and support one another unconditionally.
Perhaps initially conceived for the purposes of a quickfire joke, the end result of this happy family dynamic is that the product is now unambiguously a celebration of individuality. When watching The Addams Family, one is encouraged to accept one’s own, and everyone else’s, idiosyncrasies and to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. They’re creepy and kooky but they’ll never judge you or think less of you, whatever your foibles. This most recent incarnation is not hugely revolutionary, but that welcoming message is loud and clear so it’s not without value.
Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan’s animation is a tad formulaic and you can never shake a sense of predictability. Thirty-or-so minutes in you can see exactly the course the movie has charted and there are no surprise deviations.
It begins with the wedding of Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) in the ambiguous setting of the typical “old country”. When pitchfork wielding normies crash the wedding, the family is chased away and winds up in New Jersey, settling into a life of isolation on a hill overlooking a swamp, cut off by a protective curtain of fog.
A dozen years later and the couple is now joined by son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), and, when the fog lifts, is alarmed to find a town has sprung up where the swamp used to be. It’s home to a vacuous reality TV star (Allison Janney), who renovates properties into a state of uniform perfection. She notices the Addams’ newly-visible mansion overlooking the town and latches upon it as the ultimate makeover challenge.
So, the run-in with the conformist neighbours leaves the town feeling creeped-out and the Addams clan slightly bemused at the hysteria. An existentially-depressed Wednesday finds herself smothered at home and attracted to the glossy, pastel-coloured glamour of the town. Astutely, she identifies the town and its status-obsessed residents as being even more devious and dangerous than her own upbringing in a haunted house.
It all feels a touch prescribed but, despite that sense of predictability, it does have that message of inclusiveness and acceptance. It’s that transparent lesson that makes it, for any of its shortcomings, hard to dislike. Matt Lieberman’s script isn’t particularly dark: it’s “dark-light”, if you will, and never reaches the macabre heights (or depths) of Barry Sonnenfield’s 90’s live action pairing. Nevertheless, there is a cheerful sense of diet-rebelliousness that manages to creep its way in and the requisite amount of boisterous, smooth-edged anarchy that should keep little ghouls distracted and happy. You never know, some of those little monsters watching might be feeling mysterious and spooky themselves and find some inspiration in this unashamedly inclusive message.
Dir: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Scr: Matt Lieberman
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Alison Janney, Bette Midler
Prd: Gail Berman, Conrad Vernon, Alex Schwartz, Alison aO’Brien
Music: Michael Danna, Jeff Danna
Runtime: 87 minutes
The Addams Family is in cinemas now