Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘The Addams Family’ has just enough to honour its source material

This instalment lays on the moral

By Ben Kenigsberg/The New York Times News Service
  • Published 1.11.19, 7:40 PM
  • Updated 1.11.19, 7:40 PM
  • a min read
A scene from the movie Source: ‘The Addams Family’

In 2019, even the creepiest and kookiest movie characters must have origin stories. The new animated version of The Addams Family begins with the wedding of Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) before they are chased off by angry villagers. Refugees, they wind up in New Jersey and make their home in an abandoned asylum where Thing gives Lurch tips on tickling the ivories. (The pair’s eventual duet on the rock-and-soul standard Green Onions is quite the sight.)

Although returning the Addamses to illustrated form brings them full circle (Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoons long predated the 1960s TV series), this movie exists in the shadow of Barry Sonnenfeld’s live-action films from 1991 and 1993. As spot-on as the casting of Isaac and Theron may sound, animation spares them from having to match the ingenious physical comedy of Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston.

In other respects, the movie — from the Sausage Party directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan — is the diversion you would expect, getting laughs from the disparity between the Addams’ congenital gloominess and the planned community, called Assimilation, that’s being developed near their mansion. (Allison Janney voices the villain, a home makeover guru who is, in her own way, mysterious and spooky.)

Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) nervously prepares for his mazurka, which resembles a bar mitzvah with a saber instead of a Torah portion, while Wednesday (Chloe Grace-Moretz) experiences pangs of teenage rebellion, which means adding the “gateway colour” pink to her wardrobe. If this instalment lays on the moral (all families are freaky in their own ways) a bit thick, it has just enough wit and weirdness to honour its source material.