If it seems The Addams Family always has been a part of our family, it is because they have for more than 80 years, since Charles Addams introduced the gothicly amusing clan in a series of New Yorker cartoons beginning in 1938. They’ve never gone far from the pop culture, whether as a hit 1960s ABC sitcom, a couple of cartoon shows, the 1990s movies starring Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia and even a Broadway musical. But, quite surprisingly, it has taken all this time for the Addamses to get their first animated feature film, and directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon make sure it is faithful in ways that count to the original Charles Addams creation while still updating it for today’s audiences, who ought to have a lot of fun with this iteration. Some who might be unfamiliar with the source material might think this is some sort of knockoff of the Adam Sandler Hotel Transylvania franchise, but it is just the opposite because that series owes everything to the Addams family, and it is nice they are finally getting their animated due on the big screen.
What’s more, this is the first time the tale has been told as an origin story, so we get to see how Morticia and Gomez met and eventually moved into that famous delapidated mansion on the hill. This time they are the target of real estate entrepreuner and home-makeover TV personality Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), who is trying to sell her perfect utopian community as the bright and wonderful place to live but has to find a way to get rid of the Addamses and their eyesore of a home that towers over the whole town. For the Addams clan, it is big doings because son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) is taking that major step into manhood as he celebrates his Sabre Mazurka, a rite of passage that means all the relatives will be joining in and traveling to be there for the big day. That plot device allows the filmmakers, including writers Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler, to introduce a slew of creepy new characters to amusing effect. From the clever opening of distributor MGM’s famous Leo the Lion logo morphing into the Addams’ own domesticated Kitty Kat Lion and straight through to the peppy conclusion, this latest screen version gets most of it right.
Part of the reason is a very starry and perfectly chosen voice cast led by Charlize Theron as Morticia and Oscar Isaac as Gomez, bringing their own style to the infamous characters but paying homage to what we expect. Chloe Grace Moretz nicely deadpans daughter Wednesday, who is given a large slice of the plotline as she goes to school and doesn’t quite fit in with the popular kids, as you might imagine. This is where the film’s main theme of not being ashamed of being different or being yourself really comes into play. Wolfhard is a terrific Pugsley, and there’s sharp work from Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester and the inimitable Snoop Dogg as Cousin It, though vocally the latter’s contributions are minimal compared to the rest. Bette Midler is, well Bette Midler as Grandma, and Janney nails the sizable role of Needler as the quasi-villain of the piece. Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Elsie Fisher, Tituss Burgess and Jenifer Lewis add lots of flavor in the very large cast. Of course there is also silent work from monster butler Lurch and the handy hand known as Thing, who contribute some witty turns on the house organ throughout the breezy 87-minute running time.
Visually, the animators have done a fine job bringing these iconic characters to life in the CGI universe, carrying on the spirit that inspired Charles Addams in the first place. Going animated has given the storytellers a level of freedom to go whole hog that the live-action versions could only talk about. I kinda wish, though, that the whole thing was hand-drawn rather than computer animated to more thoroughly assimilate the look Charles Addams created, but the results Tiernan and Vernon have achieved get the job done in style in this ready-made family treat for Halloween.
MGM’s United Artists Releasing opens it Friday. Producers are Gail Berman, Alison O’Brien, Alex Schwartz, and Vernon. Check out my video review with scenes from the film at the link above.
Do you plan to see The Addams Family? Let us know what you think.
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