The Addams Family (2019)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

//USA, 2019, , , , , , Story by , , , Screenplay by , Matt Lieberman, based on characters created by Produced by , , , Conrad Vernon.  Music by , Production Design by , Film Editing by , .

Charles Addams’ delightful panels depicting the ghoulish yet ironically functional family are brought back to movie screens in animated form and are most welcome to do so, having not appeared in filmed adaptation since the short-lived Canadian television series of the late nineties.  We get a glimpse of the clan’s origins when a pre-title prologue tells us that Gomez and Morticia’s wedding was interrupted by pitchfork-wielding townsfolk who chased them out of their dwellings, prompting them to hit the road and drive to the most terrible place they can think of where no one will mind their existence (New Jersey, of course).  Years later with their children Pugsley (voiced by Finn Wolfhard) and Wednesday () now in adolescence and their faithful butler Lurch taking care of their haunted house, Gomez () is preparing for his son’s “Mazurka” (an age-old bar mitzvah-like family rite of passage) while Morticia (Charlize Theron) becomes increasingly concerned with pre-teen Wednesday’s apparent detachment: she is not enjoying decapitating her dolls as much as she used to and is curious about what the girls do at the lovely pink shopping mall in the valley beneath their mansion.  Trouble comes to call when an overly ambitious realtor and reality television star (Allison Janney) decides to get rid of the Addamses and the eyesore of a former asylum that they live in, turning the town against them with an onslaught of fake news to guarantee that the squeaky clean suburban nightmare of a housing development that she has just built will sell.  What she’s not prepared for is the fact that our heroes only seem weird, they’re actually more decent than the people who call themselves normal, as on-the-nose as the commentary gets in a film that sees Trump-era America as the return of post-war prosperity conservatism that the Carolyn Jones series was poking fun at the first time around.  The eccentricity with which the characters are drawn seems a bit unnecessary, the film lacks the lush beauty of earlier versions (particularly the Barry Sonnenfeld films) but is for the most part true to the spirit of what has made this Halloween-flavoured Leave It To Beaver so endearing for so long, with one glaring exception:   the screenplay has Morticia spend most of the movie worried and suspicious, which is so faulty an understanding of her that they might as well have put her in a Bo Peep dress.  The joke about this character, and it’s exemplified so beautifully by Anjelica Huston’s portrayal of her, is that she easily be written off as an airhead, Betty Draper in a shroud, but actually is kind and gentle because of how self-satisfied and content she is (the anti-Betty Draper, and the fact that she expresses this by giving her children knives to play with only makes this funnier). Likely this choice was made to give her more to do, in earlier versions Morticia has a tendency to dress the sets with her presence since people without contradictions can’t very well participate in dramatic conflict, but it lets down those of us who particularly love revisiting this franchise to see her character’s delicate flavour of comedy in action.

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