The Addams family’s first feature-length animated adventure sees newly-weds Gomez (Isaac) and Morticia (Theron) move to an isolated gothic house in order to raise a family away from pitchfork-wielding villagers. But their privacy is threatened years later when a town is built on their doorstep, and they’re forced to integrate with the neighbours, all while preparing for a visit from their extended family.
The characters are all true to form, and the film plays them broad (sometimes too broad, in the case of Uncle Fester), but the character design work is wonderful, and very faithful to the original comic strips. As with all versions of The Addams Family, the message here is that the weird but loving Addams’ are actually more functional than the ‘normal’ people around them. This version takes that theme and uses it to comment on the way social media is used to stoke hatred against people who are outwardly ‘different’. It’s a heavy-handed and obvious theme, and one that’s too earnest to allow for the subversive humour associated with the characters.
There are glimpses of wicked humour – even the weirdo Addams’ vaccinate their kids – and some promising but frustratingly unexplored avenues, like Morticia’s annoyance with Gomez’s extended family intruding, and Wednesday (Moretz) deciding to rebel by going to a normal school and wearing a pink hairclip. (Pink, Morticia tells her, is a “gateway colour”). Surely Wednesday attending school is rich enough to have been the main meat of the story, rather than simply two scenes? The film would have done well to keep things simple, and leave the characters room to breathe. Wednesday is a hoot, as always, but Morticia is constricted by the story even more than by her corsets. The real delight of the film, though, is Oscar Isaac as Gomez. He, like all the characters, isn’t given anywhere near enough to do, but his performance is so boisterously heartfelt that he sweeps you along, and leaves you hoping that one day he’ll get to play the character in live action.