THE ADDAMSMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
On the day of their wedding, Gomez (Oscar Isaac: SUCKER PUNCH, TICKY TACKY, EX MACHINA, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, ANNIHILATION), Morticia (Charlize Theron: THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, ÆON FLUX, PROMETHEUS, MAD MAD: FURY ROAD, ATOMIC BLONDE), and their soon to be joined family finds themselves face to face with torch-wielding villagers who want them dead.
Saved by Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Thing, Gomez and Morticia make their way to America, eventually winding up in New Jersey and running into Lurch (Conrad Vernon), their soon to be butler.
As sheer luck would have it, they also find an abandoned insane asylum. It's a dusty, web enshrouded mess that is creepy, kooky, and altogether ooky. But it's also haunted. Yes, it's a match made in hell.
13 years later and Gomez and Morticia are blessed with their darling children, Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR , ROOM 6, WICKED LITTLE THINGS, THE EYE , KICK-ASS [all], LET ME IN, DARK SHADOWS , CARRIE , THE 5TH WAVE, SUSPIRIA , GRETA) and Pugsly (Finn Wolfhard: STRANGER THINGS [TV], IT , HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE KINGDOM OF MADNESS, IT: CHAPTER TWO).
This is where the story comes together.
Wednesday wants to explore beyond the boundaries of the gated Addams Family estate.
Pugsly must learn the Addams Family tradition of the Saber Mamushka, else he may be eaten.
Gomez has invited all the old-world family, from all over the old world, to Pugsly's great moment of entering manhood.
Meanwhile, the modern world of trivial New, New, New, outside grows close enough to cause alarm at just the wrong time and that's where Morticia, as the matriarch of the family, must hold the many threads of her spiderweb together to both nurture and protect her immediate family from... Progress!
For example, when Wednesday meets the girl from beyond the gate, Parker (Elsie Fisher: BAD BEHAVIOR , THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA), it's the modern girl who says,
"You don't have a cell phone? That's weird."
When Charles Addams created the Addams Family in the 1930s as a one panel New Yorker comic titled, "Homebodies", he did so with the intent of mocking the weakness and flaws of an American society that deluded itself into imagining it was cultured, elevated, and far from barbaric. With a razor sharp wit, Charles Homebodies repeatedly showed that mannered Americans were nothing more than barbaric children dressing in costumes and playing grow-up. Americans were not who they pretended to be, while the Homebodies of Addams's comics were exactly who they believed themselves to be.
They exulted in living out our darkest thoughts. Pouring boiling hot oil on the heads of their pesky neighbors; laughing at all the wrong moments of a heartbreaking movie; keeping dangerous animals that may be responsible for eating the neighborhood pets, or children for that matter. All things the Addams believed, to their point of view, made them just average, regular folks.
The dimensional cgi characters in THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2019, are rendered as molded rubber dolls in the case of Gomez and Pugsly, or fine porcelain ceramic in the case of Morticia and Wednesday. They are made to look like 3 dimensional versions of Charles Addams's original pen and ink drawings, courtesy of character modeler, Luis Arizaga Rico, veteran of Aardman Animations.
When THE ADDAMS FAMILY became a live action flesh and blood TV show in 1964, the characters took on a more human appearance out of necessity (with the few exceptions of Lurch and Cousin It). To fill a nearly 30 minute episode, it was impossible to simply draw from Charles Addams's one panel comic, moving from single joke to joke. Instead, creator David Levy infused the personality of the comic into the living characters so that the actors could move about their homebody house while still living within the petty societal craziness of a larger world, with its crippling bureaucratic nonsense, that in turn, found the Addams strange for not abandoning reason and conforming to the rigid, fragile madness.
In all ways it was the Addams that were conservative, constantly talking about the old ways, and refusing to be part of the hurly burly rush into pushy progress.
The Addamses weren't repulsed by the modernistic fear of physical deformity, they embraced it. Morticia knitted birthday gifts of sweaters for the never seen distant family members, like Cousin Groot, who apparently had two heads and three arms.
Cousin It, teacup small and covered in long blonde hair that touched the floor (voiced in the 2019 by Snoop Dogg: HOOD OF HORROR), was considered the dashing Ladies Man of the Addams Family. Though his speech was indecipherable to everyone outside of the Addams, they had no trouble understanding him and sometimes speaking his language.
The TV Addams were old-fashioned non-conformists in a rapid Atomic World that long passed them by.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (MEN IN BLACK) and his brilliant movie adaptation, THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991), was co-wrote by Caroline Thompson (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, CORPSE BRIDE). Again, their adaptation was the Addams as an old world traditional family, Steampunk in some ways, but out of step with the modern world that didn't understand it and sought to exploit and destroy it.
Caroline Thompson is at home with this concept judging from her work with Tim Burton, and so is her ADDAMS FAMILY co-writer, Larry Wilson (BEETLEJUICE). Together they wrote the arguable best of Tim Burton's catalog and were a perfect team for Sonnenfeld, who used their talents as his own launch point into feature films.
The TV show explored the darkness of the Addams family while accepting the love that can still dwell in the heart of darkness.
The movie made Wednesday sadistic toward her brother, wishing not simply to do him harm, but murder him outright. The fact that he could take endless horrific harm that would do in an average person lent a greater cartoonishness to the movie, but the script, direction, and acting all made it work.
TV show and Movie captured the spirit of Charles's comic without imitating it or each other.
That's where THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2019 stumbles for me. Unlike the TV show and original motion picture, the animated movie doesn't carve out its own Addams Family identity. Instead it's an endless succession of imitative callbacks to the movies and the TV show. It's a retread: mildly funny in places because the original material was funny.
And when it's not?
Charlize Theron does her impression of actor Carolyn Jones from the television ADDAMS FAMILY.
Wednesday is a copy of Actor Christina Ricci's cold and sadistic Wednesday from Barry Sonnenfeld's first feature.
Voice actor Nick Kroll has Uncle Fester sound like actor Jackie Coogan from the TV show. The animators even duplicated Jackie Coogan's scowl and movements.
Conrad Vernon impersonates actor Ted Cassidy's TV version of Lurch (actor Carel Struycken portrayed Lurch as the silent type in the movies).
Stitching the impersonations and hack set pieces together, is the saccharine sweetness - unearned and out of place in an ADDAMS FAMILY movie - of Director Greg Tiernan. Greg spent nearly the entirety of his career directing toddler-age episodes of Thomas & Friends and - Egad - does it show!
Greg's directing skill at preschool children's level of humor worked with the over-the-top bawdy vulgarity of Sausage Party, because the clash of the two concepts is what made the humor work.
The Addams Family is a different beast. One with its own unique personality that abhors a vacuum patched by a poor graft. THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2019 has two directors (common for many of today's non-Pixar movies). The other director and voice of Lurch, Conrad Vernon, has had some success with the diminishing returns of the Shrek franchise as well as the flawed but reasonably enjoyable MONSTERS VS ALIENS. In some ways, problems there repeat here.
This is Conrad's second outing teamed with Greg Tiernan, but it's not working this time.
The writing is by Pamela Pettler (CORPSE BRIDE, MONSTER HOUSE, 9) and newcomer Matt Lieberman. Pamela wasn't adapting from the source material, however, she was adapting from a story pitch by Conrad, Matt, and South Park's own Erica Rivinoja.
I feel confident in saying that Pamela and Erica could have delivered a biting, hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable movie, but they were hampered by all the reasons stated.
Not to say THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2019 is a total loss. There are great visual touches from Thomas & Friends alumni, Patricia Atchison (Production Designer) and Sausage Party alumni, Kevin McQueen (Art Director).
There are nice little creative touches as well, though they're sadly few and far.
The voice actors all brought their A-Game, giving the animators plenty of fun to work with. It's the script and direction that let them down.
On top of everything else, for having an unearned, and so senseless Hollywood Happy Ending (Very Un-Addams Family), THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2019 gets 3 barely earned Shriek Girls.
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