Months ago I watched the “Addams Family” trailer, and nothing excited me about it. The animation was lifeless, and the humor fell flat. The only moment that stood out to me, because it was familiar, had a red balloon. I recall that Wednesday Addams (Chloë Grace Moretz) comes into a room to speak with her parents, and she’s holding the balloon. I knew the joke before Wednesday said a word. The writers would reference “IT,” which is a more entertaining and humorous movie than “The Addams Family.”
Sure enough, they did. Morticia (Charlize Theron), Wednesday’s mother, asks what she has. Wednesday responds, “I’m not sure.” And Morticia replies, “There’s usually a murderous clown attached to the other end of these.”
This, like many jokes written for the film, is not poorly structured. The macabre gag has a setup and a punchline. However, there is nothing creative about the reference to Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Had there been a pinch of irony in this bit or a surprise ending, it might have worked better.
Humor in animation doesn’t always have to be obvious, but in “The Addams Family,” it is. This movie needed a rewrite, and the screenwriters, Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler, needed to try a few different gags before they stuck with one. I’ll give Lieberman and Pettler a little credit, though, because they thankfully stayed away from potty humor.
While I wasn’t thrilled with the writers’ effort on the jokes, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the film’s plot. It was a cookie-cutter “Don’t judge people for being different” concept, but it worked well enough. In the film, the Addams family is being forced out of their home by an overzealous television house flipper named Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). Needler wants to build the perfect neighborhood and call it Assimilation, but the Addams family’s kooky, spooky, and all together oooky home is in the way of that. I must admit; I got a kick out of the neighborhood’s name. It’s not the subtlest nod to conformity, but it’s fun nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the movie overall isn’t particularly fun. It is enjoyable to see this classic TV family on the big screen once again, but this isn’t their most entertaining adventure. Moreover, most of the characters lack the zeal that they had in the two live-action films.
Gomez (Oscar Isaac) isn’t nearly as suave and lovesick. Wednesday is drab and has a twisted sense of humor, but her character isn’t as well defined or as interesting as her live-action incarnation played by Christina Ricci. And Uncle Fester is not nearly as eccentric. He’s just actor Nick Kroll doing a silly voice. Not much else motivates him.
The writers are to blame again for some of the character changes, but animators should carry some of the blame too. The animation is quite dull and looks cheap. Before the movie played, the “Frozen II” trailer was shown and made “The Addams Family” look like a film rendered by an Intro to Computer Animation student.
For this movie, the animators were inspired by creator Charles Addams’s original drawings and paintings of the creepy family. Considering that, they did a good job capturing the basic look of the characters. However, I think that these animators should have been more inspired by the methods Addams used. Paintings and drawings have texture, but the family is so glossy and smooth.
I did think some of the extended Addams family character designs were good though. For instance, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the Momo-inspired character or the woman with a shrub on her head and a little man poking out of the shrub. Each family member was a different shape, had a different costume, and a unique quirk that separated them. Not to be rude to the original Addams Family, but I’m curious about shrub man’s story more than theirs.
The iconic creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky family deserved a better movie, but it’s not a total failure. The plot is good enough for a non-Disney animated movie, the designs of the characters are original, and the casting choices mostly work. I’m not eager to return to the Addams family’s home, but it was a decent visit while it lasted.