There’s one moment of sharp satire in MGM’s new, wholly unnecessary animated Addams Family reboot. It takes the form of a song performed by the residents of Assimilation, New Jersey, whose lyrics go like this: “What’s so great about being yourself, when you can be just like everyone else? It’s easy to be happy when you have no choice.” Unfortunately, this pointed little number is given the same amount of weight as a Snoop Dogg song whose lyrics have to be bleeped out to accommodate its placement in a PG-rated family film. Maybe needless to say, The Addams Family is a mixed bag.
Mildly amusing details are scattered throughout. Take the urn full of cremains the soon-to-be Mrs. Morticia Addams (Charlize Theron) uses as eyeshadow, or the Barbie-esque color coding of the film’s villain, TV remodeling show host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). There are not quite enough of these to make the movie lively, however. Nor do they make enough of an impact to sustain the viewer through the tedious business of setting up conflicts and imparting lessons. At least the origin story, which sees Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) and his new bride chased out of the “old country” by torch-wielding villagers on their wedding day, only lasts up through the opening credits.
From there, we fast-forward 13 years to Gomez preparing his eldest, Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), for his “mazurka,” the sword-dancing ceremony that serves as the Addams-specific equivalent of a bar mitzvah. The entire extended family will be slithering out of their lairs to attend the festivities, which puts the Addamses in direct conflict with Needler and her crew as they prepare to unveil their brand-new housing development, the aforementioned Assimilation, down the road. Further complicating Gomez and Morticia’s party plan is their youngest child, Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose curiosity about life outside of the family’s decrepit mansion can no longer be contained. She even goes so far as to go to the mall and purchase a pink unicorn hair clip, which earns her an indefinite grounding as soon as she gets home.
The moral of this story—something something acceptance, something something “What is normal, anyway?”—becomes evident early on, and recalls those of the Addams Family movies produced in the early ’90s. (Also reminiscent of those films is the Addams Family-themed rap over the end credits, this one performed by Migos, Karol G, Rock Mafia, and Snoop Dogg.) The personalities of the family members have also remained consistent from Charles Addams’ original drawings through their various TV and film adaptations, with burning passion between Gomez and Morticia, deadpan one-liners from Wednesday, and some slightly edgy jokes about how Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) is probably a sex offender.
But for every morbid moment, there’s an equal number of puns only a 6-year-old could love, like the “whine cellar” in the basement. Similarly, the animation is no more than adequate, showing some creativity in the character design but failing to apply the same imagination to their environment. (One potentially distracting aspect is the exaggerated silhouettes of the adult female characters, but if you were able to sit still during Incredibles 2, you’ll make it through the scene where Morticia laces up her corset in the morning.) Add to all this a messy splat of an ending, and it makes sense that The Addams Family closes with an animated sing-along of the original theme. Anyone who’s still engaged by the end of the movie is probably too young to remember the original.