Tag: the addams family

The Addams Family

The Addams Family (1991)
★★ / ★★★★

Barry Sonnenfeld’s “The Addams Family” could have been just another forgettable live-action film translated directly from a cartoon or television show, but this outing is a real treat—to an extent. Although a comedy for all ages, it is willing to embrace a gothic mood, all the actors command strong presence, and credit to screenwriters Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson for giving every character—even a CGI hand—a specific personality. Take one out and the absence is alarming. The work, however, is let down by a tired plot that goes on for longer than it should.

Every time the material breaks out of the scheme involving a lawyer (Dan Hedaya), a loan shark (Elizabeth Wilson), and the loan shark’s adopted son (Christopher Lloyd) stealing the Addams’ riches, it is almost like an exhalation. It is riotously funny when the eccentric Addams interact with regular folks without a palate for the macabre. A few standout scenes: The mother, Morticia (Anjelica Huston who never fails to milk every second as if it were her last and so we cannot help but be drawn to her), being taken aside by her daughter’s teacher to show a drawing of whom Wednesday (Christina Ricci) had chosen as her hero, Wednesday and Pugsley’s (Jimmy Workman) extremely gory performance at a school talent show, and an exchange at a lemonade stand between the Addams children and a Girl Scout. This is an excellent example of a central plot in excess. It ends up muffling a comedy that ignites seemingly without effort.

And so we sit through increasingly tired sequences of Gordon, the adopted son, disguising himself to be Uncle Fester who’s been missing for twenty-five years. The deceitful trio are convinced that by earning Gomez’ trust (Raul Julia), who they consider to be an idiot, the Addams patriarch will reveal the location of a vault filled with treasures. There are far too many scenes that communicate the same idea or joke: The impersonator has bitten off more than he bargained for because what this family values most is not wealth, their mansion, or otherworldly possessions. What they cherish most are memories, experiences, and family. (Torture, leather, blood-letting, a bit of electrocution, and serving body parts in a dish are icing on the cake.)

I did appreciate, however, that the writers allow Gordon to learn some tricks on the spot. For instance, by looking at old photographs, he attempts to feign possessing certain memories. An antagonist that is adaptable is curious—so there’s some level of entertainment there. Gordon’s mother and the Addams’ lawyer are far less intriguing by comparison. I suppose since they are not as peculiar as the Addams, the approach is to exaggerate behavior in order to make up for it. But that’s an inappropriate approach because greed is given a cartoonish hue instead of embracing the fact that the trait is in everyone. It’s just that some are more consumed by it than others. A little bit of genuine human touch goes a long way even for, or especially in, a comedy.

Still, “The Addams Family” deserves a marginal recommendation for the elements it does get exactly right. The terrific cast coupled with energetic and specific performances elevate what could have been another wan impersonation comedy to a genuine good time for children and children-at-heart alike. When it moves toward darker shades of humor, it tickles the bones.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family (2019)
★ / ★★★★

This adaptation of “The Addams Family” is dead in the water. Clearly lacking imagination, surprises, and energy, it appears that screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler have little to no understanding of what makes the Addams special. (I’m not convinced they were aware that the source material was meant to be a satire because this movie seems reluctant to take risks.) Yes, every member of the clan is in fact a caricature, but each person is not given a brand of humor or even (a black) heart. Instead, the movie relies on puns throughout its entire ninety-minute duration and it is stuck regurgitating one expository sequence after another. Content-wise it is boring and so are its visuals.

The animation is truly ugly to look at—like some cheap knockoff Dreamworks animation. Take note of the Addams mansion: it looks just like any other abandoned haunted house in a generic animated film. Cue the dark clouds and thunderstorms. It is supposed to be big, palatial even, but we see no more than five rooms. And in each room there is nothing especially memorable—not one macabre figure or creepy painting. Instead, the film busies itself with delivering unfunny visuals that it forgets to establish a believable atmosphere.

Not even the character designs are inspired. You look at Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) or Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and see animated models wearing clothes. Their eyes, postures, or the way they move command no personality. When in action—like Wednesday being whisked away by a tree branch or Pugsley maniacally throwing explosives at his father—observe how their expressions are devoid of even the slightest changes. It’s like watching mannequins… only mannequins appear to look creepier the longer one stares at them. These models look like first drafts that require further revisions in order to become alluring in a darkly comic way. I don’t think children would find the characters enticing in the least.

Its plot is also forgettable: Reality TV host Margaux Needler (voiced by Allison Janney) wishes to sell houses, but since the Addams mansion is such an eyesore (she prefers bright colors like pink and yellow), she takes it upon herself to remodel their gothic home free of charge. In order to be liked by their neighbors, Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) welcome the obnoxious homemaking guru into their home. In a nutshell, the movie attempts to impart lessons regarding acceptance—that it is all right to be weird or different. But it comes off as trite and disingenuous because the material fails to show examples of why negative stereotypes or prejudice can be harmful or flat out wrong. The movie offers not one heartfelt scene. It is because it possesses no emotional intelligence.

I think films like “The Addams Family,” directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, should not be shown to children because it has no entertainment value, just emptiness and noise in order to pass the time. Here is a strange family ostracized by their community. And the Addams are also guilty of self-isolation. Why not explore these ideas in meaningful ways? Aren’t the writers adults capable of complex thinking? Instead, the material inspires its viewers to watch passively. The bar for animated pictures has been raised considerably over the past two decades and what this work offers is simply not good enough.