The Addams Family has always been about how being different is wonderful and that standing out in the world is actually a beautiful thing. The Addams Family debuted in 1964, the same year as Flipper and Gillian’s Island, two shows that surely made the Addams stick out like a sore thumb. Despite sharing the screen with the other macabre sitcom that debuted in 1964, The Munsters, Addams Family combined love and morbid humor in a way that was borderline unsettling. When Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family movie was released in 1991, it topped the box office against such family friendly films as Beauty and the Beast, An American Tail, and Curly Sue.
The Addams Family has taken so many different forms over the years, from New Yorker cartoons to classic pinball machines. It’s almost surprising this creepy, kooky family hadn’t had an animated film, especially since their gruesome humor is a perfect fit for the medium, proven by the franchise’s two previous animated TV shows. With The Addams Family, Sausage Party directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan brings the Addams back from the dead once more. Even if Vernon and Tiernan’s take on the family does fall into standard kid movie themes, The Addams Family makes these feel natural for this specific story, and make the Addams stand out in a sea of animated sameness.
After finding the perfect home in horrific New Jersey, the Addams family remained mostly unbothered for thirteen years. But now, past the fog that surrounds their hilltop house, is Margaux Needler (voiced by Allison Janney), a HGTV-style host who wants to sell homes in her newly build town named “Assimilation.” Her vision is that everyone in her town can be exactly the same and that she can craft her little paradise exactly how she wants it. When she realizes that the Addams’ home is blocking her beautiful view, Margaux tries to find a way to renovate their home, or even better, find a way to get the Addams out of her town for good.
The Addams have gone through this type of assimilation before – albeit never hitting it over the audience’s head quite so hard. But writers Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler give The Addams Family an interesting new dynamic, by having the children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) start to pull away from the lives that their parents want for them. Wednesday wants to know what goes on beyond her family’s estate, starts going to middle school against her mother’s wishes, and befriends Margaux’s daughter, Parker (Elsie Fisher). Meanwhile, Pugsley is training for his Sabre Mazurka, a coming-of-age sword-fighting ceremony passed down through generations of Addams. But even with Pugsley’s training, he can’t nail the ceremony that is so important to his father, Gomez (Oscar Isaac). Usually, this family works as a unit against the people who want to change them, so it’s a welcome change to see the children in the family start to have minds of their own.
But The Addams Family tackles the same issues that so many current animated films try to take on: being yourself and not worrying what other people think. This message already feels obvious before the film starts laying it on thick. Lieberman and Pettler try to make this idea come off as naturally as they can, peppering the idea into all of their three major plots, but it’s a shame that they couldn’t have come up with a more original statement to make.
Thankfully, Lieberman and Pettler with solid jokes and visual gags throughout, and they don’t skimp on how dark they make their material. For example, in an origin story that shows the wedding of Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez Addams, we see that Morticia’s makeup is made of her parent’s ashes. Or especially with the Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) character, the film heavily hints that Fester is living in people’s attics, and he definitely gives off a pervy vibe. The bits scattered throughout the story help tone down the blandness of the story.
The voice cast for Addams Family is quite impressive, and certainly brings new life into characters that have taken many forms over the years. Isaac’s Gomez is just right, and the art style of the character leans heavily into a creepy Peter Lorre that fits just right. Kroll as Fester is such an inspired choice, and he plays it almost as if Gil Faizon left his darkest desires take control of him. Moretz is wonderfully droll as Wednesday and Wolfhard brings a joyful glee to the mayhem that Pugsley creates. The only voice performance that is disappointing is Theron as Morticia. Understandably, this is a hard performance to give, considering she is supposed to sound lifeless, but Theron sounds like she’s struggling to finish each line.
The Addams Family isn’t reinventing the wheel with its latest of many reboots, but it does bring enough ghoulish jokes, new variations on these characters, and unique visual style to stick out from most kid’s fare. Even after all these years, The Addams Family remains mysterious, spooky and all together ooky.