There are certainly a lot of missed opportunities in the latest “The Addams Family” remake: Like why, if you have Oscar Isaac, would you turn him into just a voice in an animated film when the man is just a perfect, real-life Gomez?
And some of the animation choices don’t really convey why this creepy, kooky family has been so beloved for so many decades. Thankfully, other choices that seem out-of-the-box — Snoop Dogg as Cousin It? Christina Aguilera singing on the soundtrack? — help co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (the duo behind “Sausage Party”) deliver an enjoyable, light-hearted Halloween treat that will surprisingly charm families and let them have a few laughs together.
On the wedding day of Gomez (voiced by Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron), the ceremony is overtaken by people who want these monsters out of their town. Chased out of yet another home by torch-bearing villagers, the newly minted Addamses are driven (literally, in their family car, by disembodied hand Thing) out of the city, only to discover an abandoned asylum just gloomy and spooky enough for them to call home. Fast forward 13 years, and the family is complete with tween children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), plus Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), Thing and butler Lurch (Conrad Vernon).
While Pugsley prepares for the traditional Mazurka, the male Addams’ rite of passage consisting of a knife dance, Wednesday yearns to venture beyond the gates of the asylum to see what exists outside the positively dreadful and boring family home. After discovering Assimilation (pun fully intended) — the town that created by Home And Garden (HAG) TV maven Margeaux (Allison Janney) created — Wednesday decides to attend the local junior high, despite Morticia’s concerns and objections (“Pink is a gateway color!”), and to befriend Margeaux’s daughter, Parker (Elsie Fisher). Each young girl is seeking what the other has, and they influence each other in the way that all teen girls do. Of course, their mothers don’t understand their daughters, and a rift is formed.
Meanwhile, Pugsley also has issues with trying to live up to his father’s standards for Addams men, wanting instead to blow things up — something Pugsley happens to be very very good at, which his dad doesn’t understand. As each Addams child forges their own independence, the family is also being targeted by Margeaux to rid them of their home in an attempt to keep her town picture-perfect.
The surprising element to the animated “The Addams Family” is that it is a sweet coming-of-age story that tells kids it’s OK to be yourself, even if it means going against your parents’ views. The schism between Morticia and Wednesday hit me like a very surprising gut punch, as I have a tween daughter going through similar battles with me way too often. While the script by Todd Lieberman (“Sausage Party”) is a little too cookie-cutter and a bit simplistic, it works really well for kids. It doesn’t attempt to talk down to them, one of my biggest pet peeves about some family films; kids are much smarter than adults sometimes give them credit for, and as a parent, I really appreciate when a film just allows them to be charming and funny without reducing them to nonsense.
Lieberman’s script really meets kids at their level of understanding, and yes, at times the gags were clichéd and perhaps over some kids’ heads (like Cousin It’s license plate “C U Z”), but the humor isn’t forced, managing to get some chuckles out of the grown-ups too.
The voice actors all delivered on each character, but I do have some issues with choices made in animation, particularly in how men are drawn versus the women. While most live-action iterations of Gomez Addams tend to be a picture of a very handsome, charming gentleman, this version is more closely tied to the original Charles Addams cartoon version of him — a bit stocky, and somewhat strange looking. And that’s perfectly fine; in fact, most of the male characters in the film appear to have that same look: stocky, chubby-ish and odd-but-charming.
In contrast, however, all the female characters are long, lithe, or overly made up to their version of “beauty.” In the opening sequence, Morticia literally bolts and screws herself into her wedding gown, which is off-putting. While the animation is fun, images like these do have a way of seeping into young minds, and filmmakers should be mindful of messages they are sending to young girls. Promoting “being yourself” — while delivering it with this odd body image contrast — makes for a confusing ideation for kids, which is a major detractor from the unlikely charm the rest of the film delivers.