“The Addams Family” is back, and this time, they’re given a creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky 3D animated treatment. First appearing in 1938, America’s worst family escaped from the wonderfully warped mind of cartoonist Charles Addams and into The New Yorker magazine. Depending on what generation you crawled out of, you may best know the macabre clan from either the 1964 black-and-white television series or the 1991 movie that reintroduced the family to audiences over a series of sequels. Fast forward to 2019, and MGM has decided to reboot the franchise, with an animated format that promises to capture younger audiences — and the adults that pay for them. Before you dismiss this as another needless remake attempting to beat a dead horse in true Pugsley fashion, you may want to put on your bleakest outfit and make your way to the theater. Children’s movie aside, the results of MGM’s take are actually better than you might expect.
The newest adaptation follows parents Morticia Addams (Charlize Theron) and Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) and their household of terror as it adjusts to the 21st century, and manages to blend in important themes of social media, bullying, and ultimately conformity. Not branching too far from earlier movies, this latest iteration follows the Addamses as they’re forced out of their home and focuses on the culture clash between them and the “normal” neighbors in their new neighborhood. (The writers named the town they move to “Assimilation,” in case the necessity of fitting in wasn’t a strong enough motif.) This picturesque and diverse community is presided over by Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), the big-haired, bigger-personality ruler of Assimilation, and she isn’t too thrilled with the idea of the Addams family messing up her perfect ecosystem.
The animation style strips away the overt creepiness found in earlier movies and replaces it with something a bit more playful. You can almost hear the writers begging MGM to push the line of appropriateness when it comes to the jokes, but in the end, the film is pretty tame — with the exception of a few one-liners by Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll). Why it’s okay to show children catapulting knives and arrows at each other, but making a dark joke is going too far is beyond me, but here we are. The jokes land well and there are enough of them to keep you from checking your watch. The best laughs occur when Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) attends public school for the first time and comes face to face with the reality of mean girls. Her response is sure to please fans of this dryly humorous character.
With so many heavyweights in the animated arena, like Pixar and DreamWorks, it isn’t uncommon for movies like “The Addams Family” to get overlooked as they are quickly rushed out of theaters and into streaming or rental services. But this movie meets the challenge of holding the attention of squirming children while also tossing in just enough adult messaging to keep grown-ups involved. Moreover, it successfully walks the horror line, painting up this delightfully ghastly family just enough to not terrify children, while maintaining core themes for older viewers who cherish the family’s grim outlook on life. Although adult audiences may wish that the movie was a bit darker, MGM found a nice middle ground that is sure to entertain both perspectives.
“The Addams Family” is now in theaters.