The Addams Family

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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Ever since the willowy mistress of the dark, Morticia, and the goggle-eyed Gomez first tied the noose, er knot, their lives have been going as well as can be expected. After being chased out of their wedding ceremony by a mob with torches and pitchforks, they set their sights on a life someplace suitably horrible and despicable. And then quickly move to New Jersey. From there, they happen upon an abandoned and haunted insane asylum shrouded by a perpetual fog of swamp gas. And they know they’ve found home.

Then comes the birth of their dead-eyed daughter Wednesday and their pyrotechnically prone son Pugsley. Oh, life for the Addams Family has been bleak and painful. Or as they might put it: quite wonderful!

Now it’s time for the repugnant little Pugsley’s Mazurka—a traditional Addams family rite of passage ceremony. Gomez has been schooling the boy in the fine art of deadly swordplay for, oh, days now. And Morticia is giving the asylum a fresh coat of blood and spider webs, a perfect welcome for the visiting relatives. It’s going to be a killer event. That is, if they can keep Wednesday from hanging, disemboweling or generally killing Pugsley first. (You know the playful ways of children.)

Of course, there is one little “spider in the blood pudding,” as the saying goes. It seems that a home-renovation celebrity named Margaux Needler is also planning a celebration. She’s purchased a nearby village and given the place a complete make-over. She’s planning on revealing the changes on her show and making a fortune on house sales.

The HGTV-like show is going live soon. In fact, on the same day as Pugsley’s Mazurka.

Potential conflict?

Oh, yes. For when the driven and determined Margaux drains a local swamp, clears the air, and suddenly becomes aware of a certain black and rotting blight on the nearby hilltop, she calls foul. There must be some way of removing that problem, she grumbles. Not to mention the repulsive family living in it: a happily repulsive family, in fact, who call themselves Addams.

Time to break out the torches and pitchforks.

And it’s time for Morticia to tell her butler Lurch to boil a few more barrels of oil …

Must prepare for the extra guests.

Positive Elements

We shouldn’t judge others for being different.

We need to be, and rely on, who we are.

And not every family looks and acts the same.

Those are three solid messages, presented repeatedly (if passionlessly) in this breezy, predictable and gross-out gag peppered tale. Morticia and Gomez certainly love their kids here. (But even that sentiment can feel a bit staked in—instead of woven into—the heart of this pic.)

Spiritual Elements

The Addams family and their visiting relatives are a collection of characters and creatures who have seemingly stepped out of a gothic, gloomy world of monsters, death and torment … and brought it all with them. Young Wednesday always has a deadly pallor that makes her look black and white in photos. She raises a number of dead frogs back to life with a cobbled together Frankenstein-like device and commands them to attack someone. The visiting relatives range from monsters to horned devils to the seemingly undead. And the asylum itself has blood streaming from holes in its walls.

So, in that sense, there is a general atmosphere of dark spirituality that swirls around everything the family does: from the deep bellowing voice of a spirit that haunts the family asylum to the very fact that a moving severed hand is a family servant.

It’s all played for laughs, naturally. But at times, the film crosses the line and playfully makes light of more seriously dark spiritual elements. Morticia uses an Ouija board and crystal ball to converse with dead relatives, for instance. And a small ornamental display features bowing, chanting demon worshipers and a rising dark entity.

Characters also cry out lines such as, “What, in the name of all that is unholy, is that?”

Sexual Content

It could be said that Morticia’s black, skin-tight dress is somewhat slinky and seductive, but in a comically dark and creepy way. (She pulls her floor-dragging skirt up a bit at one point, for instance, and thousands of scurrying spiders swarm out.)

We see the bulbous Uncle Fester—Gomez’s bald, boil-like brother—naked in a bathtub (his lower half covered by water). And we spot his underwear from under his sackcloth tunic as he climbs a mountainside. He seems to flash town citizens during a song-and-dance number (though the only thing they and we see are hordes of bats flapping out of his trench coat) and makes a winking joke that adult viewers will identify as a nod to Viagra. Fester is attracted to Margaux and breathes out flirtatious comments to her now and again. For instance, Wednesday notes that Margaux has a face like a “death mask,” after they first meet her. And Fester sighs, “throw in halitosis and I’m hearing wedding bells.”

The independently moving, severed hand, Thing, looks at images of bare women’s feet online (in a purposeful wink at porn.) Margaux has cameras built into each of her make-over homes and spies on people. We hear about a woman who puts her underwear in the freezer and a woman who sits backwards on her toilet (both off camera). Someone loses his pants at one point and stands, embarrassed, in his underwear.

While going upstairs, Grandmama Addams looks at the Frankenstein-like Lurch and winks, “When you’re done with Fabio, send him up to my room.” Morticia and Gomez kiss. At least one Addams relation might be classified as comically transgender, sporting a mustache and beard on half of his/her face.

Violent Content

Pugsley attacks his father with a huge rocket and ends up in the middle of a ball of fire as the rocket explodes in the air. He falls from enormous heights, smashes through several different glass barriers, and he’s buried alive. And in each situation, he stumbles out unscathed.

So it may be that the film is suggesting that all the Addams family members are impervious to harm. Uncle Fester, for instance, is repeatedly hit with bolts launched from Wednesday’s crossbow (including one that pierces one ear and protrudes out the other). Morticia squeezes her husband’s head in a vice. Morticia and Gomez first meet Lurch by running him over with their car. Wednesday sleeps under a guillotine. Etc. etc.

We see fevered crowds with pitchforks and torches. People dance with sabers and threaten a young boy’s life. A girl is attacked by a swarm of frogs. And a large tree is set afire by a flaming arrow. A house ignites in an eruption of fire. A vampire bat sucks someone’s blood. A man’s head bursts into flames (which he doesn’t seem to mind in the least). Huge boulders are catapulted through the walls of a large house. Explosives are tossed about, blowing up the scenery. People are thumped and pummeled.

Crude or Profane Language

Just a bit of name calling, such as uses of: “creepy,” “monster,” “stupid.”

Other Negative Elements

We hear potty humored gags throughout (someone lovingly suggests that his girlfriend’s breath smells like a baby’s diaper, for example) and a number of sly, not-quite-off-color winks at adult members in the audience. For instance, when we first meet Margaux she calls out, “You don’t know the difference between sheetrock and Shinola!”

And then there’s the general creepiness of the Addams family members themselves as they eat a plate full of eyeballs and tentacles for dinner and feed their front gate with bloody chunks of meat. And Wednesday repeatedly tries to lure her brother into a situation that might kill him, including burying him alive in the front yard. The movie also winks subversively at the “sameness” of the typical American culture, for example, with school children singing a song about the joy of being alike. “It’s easy to be happy when you have no choice,” they croon.

A bully repeatedly picks on nerdy kids. (Until Wednesday pushes back.) Margaux uses social media to stir people up and send out nasty comments from fake accounts. The Addamses Grandmama talks proudly of cheating people and stealing their money. “It ain’t cheatin’ if nobody catches you,” she crows.

[Spoiler warning] Margaux has a difficult relationship with her daughter, Parker, and when Parker and Wednesday strike up an unlikely friendship, both rebel against their families in different ways. Wednesday temporarily rejects the Addamses gloomy ways by donning pink now and then (horrors!), but she also does sneak out of the house and run away for a night. Parker’s issues with her mom are deeper: She and Margaux also clash over fashion, of course, but the rebellion and disobedience feel harsher. And even though Margaux is at least partially redeemed by the end of the film, we never see a reconciliation between she and Parker: The last we hear from her daughter is that she’d rather never see Margaux again.

Conclusion

They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky.
They’re altogether ooky, the Addams family.

Yep, you’re remembering correctly, that’s a short thumb-snapping slice of the old Addams Family TV tune from back in the ‘60s. And this latest, animated rendition of that domesticated ghoulies clan represents all those lyrical things.

Especially the creepy part, oddly enough. In both graphic style and macabre winks, this pic really harkens back to the original black-and-white, New Yorker magazine, single-panel cartoon where the whole weird family was first given life.

That, however, works for and against this kids’ flick.

This animated reboot aims to replicate the original show’s grimly playful vibe. And in some ways it succeeds. But the Ouija board spirit-calls and demon-worship-depicting knick-knacks feel way too spiritually dark, especially in a film aimed at children. Co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (the duo behind Sausage Party) do whip up some great single-panel moments, such as when Wednesday shows a school bully that she’s way out of her depth when it comes to torment.

Ultimately, though, the filmmakers’ attempt to stitch together a living, breathing, heartfelt story ends up as a crypt full of predictable and potty-humored silliness—in addition to making a joke out of some deeply troubling spiritual concerns.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.