The Addams Family voice cast: Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Alison Janney, Elsie Fisher
The Addams Family movie director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
The Addams Family movie rating: 2.5 stars
A successful franchise, a bright idea, a great cast. There is little reason for the latest The Addams Family to go wrong. And yet, it does — losing its way, ironically, chasing the outrageous when most ghosts are now to be found in the ordinary.
Giving America’s famous spooky family an origin story, the film has them escaping blood-thirsty hordes into a castle high up on a hill near New Jersey. It once housed an asylum, but that suits this family — of mother Morticia (Theron), father Gomez (Isaac), daughter Wednesday (Moretz), son Pugsley (Wolfhard), along with Lurch and the Thing — just fine. (Bette Midler, Martin Short, Snoop Dogg also figure, in smaller roles.)
Thirteen years later, trouble arrives in the pink-and-orange clad, heeled, painted, and blonde-bouffant-topped form of Margeaux (Janney). She is an interior decorator, so to speak, and her mission in life is to have everyone live the same way. Her more immediate mission is to sell houses in a township that she has built in her image — which is purple roads and pink houses, and extra charge for handsome views.
Can this town called ‘Assimilation’ allow a family like the Addams, with their literally deathly ways and gothic looks, as neighbours? While we have seen many such stories to know how that one goes, particularly in animation, as Wednesday pairs with Margeaux’s teenage daughter Parker, who isn’t one of her mother’s fans, the film has a thing going for a while.
Moretz perfects the droopy-eyed, lazy and recalcitrant drawl of a teenager. Parker (Fisher), and her joined-at-the-hip smartphone, are a competent foil. But can either girl of their age, however confident, escape the pressures of peerhood, especially in the tricky alleys of junior high school? Does growing up mean conforming, or not, or forging your own path entirely?
The film clearly wants you to ask those questions, not only when it comes to Wednesday but also Pugsley, who has a sword test coming up that will determine his worth as an Addams. While laying this on more thickly than it needs to, the film tries to be a lot else too — about being “other”, and about being neighbours, about being family, and about protecting it — with nothing new to show or say.
Hope shines briefly when, one day, Wednesday goes to the mall and returns with a pink, glittery clip on her sternly braided, resolutely dark hair. A red balloon has already crashed her world and, as she puts it, she senses in it “the opposite of sad”. Morticia is horrified, saying everyone knows that pink is “the getaway colour”.
It’s heartening that The Addams Family recognises this, that sometimes, pink, glitter, and a mall day, can be all you need for a pick-up.
Wish it had more of the same. Growing-up is dreary enough, without the dark makeup.