Movie Review: 'Addam's Family'
They’re creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky and just in time for Halloween.
Many of us grew up watching them in black-and-white — Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday and Pugsley, Lurch, Thing and Cousin It — our favorite characters from the "Addams Family" TV sitcom from the 1960s. The new Addams family looks a little different, because the current film makes them appear the way illustrator Charles Addams originally created them for New Yorker Magazine, which ran from 1938 to 1988. In the new animated comedy, the Addams family’s life is turned upside down when a local TV personality remodels their home, so that it’s no longer a dark and morbid place.
The story begins with the night wedding of Morticia (Charlize Theron) to Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac). With flashlights and pitchforks, the towns people ambush the wedding ceremony, calling them monsters and demanding that they leave the community. Morticia and Gomez jump into their limo and drive away as fast as they can. They’re now married, but feel like outcasts, rejected by society. They decide to go somewhere “so horrible that nobody else would be caught dead in,” which turns out to be New Jersey. (Evidently, the Addams Family creator Charles Adams comes from the town of Westfield, New Jersey.)
On the road to New Jersey, their limo driver is a disembodied hand named Thing. A bump in the road causes them to hit a man wandering aimlessly outside the “State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.” This man turns out to be Lurch (Conrad Vernon) and he eventually becomes the Addams’s family’s butler.
Morticia and Gomez see a dark castle on a fog-surrounded hill, which turns out to be an abandoned insane asylum. They decide to make it their new home. As the story progresses, we meet other well-known Addams family characters such as Uncle Fester (Nick Knoll), Grandmamma (Bette Midler) and Cousin It (Snoop Dogg).
Fast forward to 13 years later, Gomez and Morticia live in their cheerfully macabre home with their children, Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). The Addams family is looking forward to Pugsley’s “Sabre Mazurka,” a rite of passage ceremony to prove he is ready to become a man. Pugsley’s coming of age ritual involves sword fighting, and relatives will be visiting from all over the world to watch Pugsley do his thing.
Meanwhile, Wednesday is bored with being home-schooled. She hears a ringing sound from beyond the gates of their home. It is a young girl, Parker (Elsie Fisher), ringing the bell on her bike. Parker is initially spooked by Wednesday, with her Goth-style appearance and hair braided into a hangman’s nooses. When Wednesday enrolls in public school, however, she and Parker become friends.
Parker's mom is reality show TV host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) who stars in a home-makeover program. Margaux wants to makeover the Addams mansion, so that it’s no longer a dark and morbid place. She offers to help fix up the place, to which Gomez and Morticia agree. Little do they realize that innocent-looking Margaux, with her big bouffant hair and pink pantsuits, has a devious plan up her sleeves.
What Parents Should Know
“The Addams Family” is a satirical inversion of the ideal American family. They are eccentric, peculiar and wealthy. They delight in things that are ghastly and grim. In the original cartoons and black-and-white TV show, part of the running gag is that people find them bizarre or frightening, but the Addams Family can't seem to figure out why they're not accepted like everyone else. They are square pegs in a round world. They are hit with a dose of reality when Wednesday goes to public school and comes home with a pink dress and a unicorn barrette in her hair. Things get worse when TV makeover host Margaux remodels their home, and tries to turn the townspeople against the Addams family. The movie ultimately suggests that it’s OK to be different, and underneath it all, people are just people.
Like the old black-and-white TV show, you can expect to see lot of macabre that’s presented as slapstick. Pugsley uses hand granades and explosives. Uncle Fester is hit in the back with a cross bow and arrow, yet is unharmed. Gomez enjoys squeezing his head between two metal plates in a medieval torture device. Wednesday beheads her dolls and sleeps in a guillotine. There are explosions, blood dripping from walls, heads spinning around, one character buries another alive, heads without bodies sing a cappella, and people attack each other with axes, torches and pitchforks.
The movie strikes a delicate balance of creepy and chic, but it may be too much for sensitive children. When Gomez and Morticia move into their new home, there is a raspy demonic voice which tells them to “get out.” The Addams family describes it as a spirit who haunts their home. There are several scenes that play off horror films. For instance, Pugsley climbs the walls, and his eyes are glowing in the dark to imply that he’s demon possessed. There’s a reference to Stephen King’s “It” movie, which is about a clown who murders people. Morticia uses a Ouija Board to get in touch with her deceased parents. The occultic aspects of the film may give children nightmares.
The movie ends with a message about acceptance. The Addams family may look a little different, scary and unusual, but underneath the surface, they're just a loving family. While some parents may appreciate this message, others may find this movie simply isn’t their cup of tea.