Snap out of it: Animated Addams Family update is a jokeless remake

The Addams Family’s all-star voice cast—Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Allison Janney—isn’t enough to save this joyless romp.  Universal Pictures The Addams Family’s all-star voice cast—Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Allison Janney—isn’t enough to save this joyless romp. Universal Pictures

The progression from animated family film to straight-to-Netflix series is perfectly natural. Kids want to spend more time with the characters, studios want to keep the property in the public eye between installments, and parents just want something that isn’t totally mind-numbing for them and their children. The drop off in scale and quality is expected and understandable with a tighter production schedule, but no one minds if the writing on Dragons is a bit looser than on How to Train Your Dragon, or if the animation pops a bit less. We know to scale down our expectations for the small screen for maximum enjoyment.

Unfortunately for all involved, including audiences, the newest feature film iteration of The Addams Family feels like a Netflix adaptation of itself. Co-directed by animation vets Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon with a script by Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler, the movie feels like a rough draft, as though they were forced into production after assembling an all-star cast and completing the character designs and story outline, but before finishing the script.

The Addams Family

PG, 87 minutes

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema

The animated update of Charles Addams’ creation follows the famously grim family as it adjusts to its new neighbors in the planned community of Assimilation, led by home improvement TV impresario Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). Addams daughter Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz), who has never left the family estate, rebels by going to public school and befriending a normal girl (Elsie Fisher), much to the concern of mother Morticia (Charlize Theron). Meanwhile, father Gomez (Oscar Isaac) is training son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) in the mazurka, an ancient Addams tradition and rite of passage that he is almost sure to fail at.

It’s a shame this doesn’t work because the Addamses should translate very well into animation, with the spooky atmosphere, physically impossible stunts, and limitless possibilities for creature design. The live-action films might be the closest actors have come to cartoon characters outside of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, so why not try to top it? Or even copy the Henny-Youngman-but-goth formula? Bad one-liners might have added some charm and given the bored voice actors something to do.

Casting a superstar like Snoop Dogg as Cousin Itt, then altering his voice beyond all comprehension, is an inspired decision. But including “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and playing it long enough to hear the radio edit is a bit confounding. Nick Kroll is a talented voice performer, but his Uncle Fester is basically a PG-rated Coach Steve from “Big Mouth.” The rest of the cast is wonderfully assembled: Isaac, Theron, Moretz, Wolfhard, and Bette Midler as Grandmama. If only this were the cast of a live-action reboot, we might have something worthwhile.

As an adult, I recognize I’m not the target audience for this movie, but who is? Children will either not know these characters, or if they do it’ll be from the TV series and movies, all of which are far better. It’s no more or less kid-friendly than Addams Family Values, and the macabre imagery is still there. It’s just not as funny; a jokeless comedy, a toothless satire, a joyless romp. If you’re responsible for a child’s afternoon entertainment, just show them the Addams adaptations that already exist.


Local theater listings

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 375 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056.

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213.

Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000.

SEE IT AGAIN
Black
Sunday

NR, 87 minutes

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

October 20

Unfortunately for all involved, including audiences, the newest feature film iteration of The Addams Family feels like a Netflix adaptation of itself.

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