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"THE ADDAMS FAMILY"
(2019) (voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Comedy: A ghoulish couple moves to New Jersey, raises a family of outcasts, and eventually clashes with a nearby master-planned community founded on conformity.
PLOT:
On their wedding somewhere in Eastern Europe, villagers drive Gomez (voice of OSCAR ISAAC) and Morticia Addams (voice of CHARLIZE THERON) from their homeland and force them to relocate to New Jersey. They find refuge in an abandoned asylum on top of a mountain and make it their home, with their loyal pet Thing (as always, a disembodied hand) and the monstrous Lurch (voice of CONRAD VERNON).

Thirteen years pass, and Gomez and Morticia have been blessed -- they would joke, cursed -- with a daughter, the dour Wednesday (voice of CHLOE GRACE MORETZ), and a son, the explosives-loving Pugsley (voice of FINN WOLFHARD). Their mountain hideaway has been shrouded in mist for years thanks to a surrounding moat. But when that moat gets drained by a local developer, suddenly the Addams can see down in the valley and realize they're neighbors with a master-planned community named Assimilation that is all about happy living and conformity.

The community is spearheaded by a cable-TV home improvement celebrity named Margaux Needler (voice of ALLISON JANNEY), who immediately sees the Addams' creepy mansion as an eyesore and an eventual drag on property values. So, she sets a plan into motion to drive the Addams out. But little does she know that her sullen teenage daughter, Parker (voice of ELSIE FISHER), has made friends with Wednesday. Also, her plan is put into motion on the same weekend the whole Addams clan is descending on Assimilation to celebrate Pugsley's weird coming-of-age ceremony, including Uncle Fester (voice of NICK KROLL), cousin It (voice of SNOOP DOGG), and Grandma Addams (voice of BETTE MIDLER).

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The new "Addams Family" movie is one of those flicks that steps right in its first few minutes, deepens in its second act, gets you excited for a great and fun movie, and then just devolves into a mess in its final third. My biggest problems with this flick are mostly related to the last 20 or so minutes. Consequently, I have to be infuriatingly vague in my analysis, because this is a movie many folks are going to see regardless of my write-up and I don't ever want to be a spoiler.

Although in this case, I dearly want to! But I'll keep it general. First, the set-up and it's a good one. It's 13 years ago, and the macabre Gomez Addams (voice of Oscar Isaac) is set to marry the love of his life, the equally ghoulish Morticia Frump (voice of Charlize Theron). They and their beloved family members are assembled near some vague, nameless Eastern European village where the local populace still can get riled up enough to the point where they amass with pitchforks and torches and go to kill those who are different from them. I have to say they're as good a people to collude with as any, I suppose.

At any rate, the Addams are forced from their homeland and must relocate to a spot even more dark ... even more dreary ... a place that Morticia describes as "somewhere no one in their right mind would be caught dead in." They, of course, pick New Jersey. The happy couple sets up housekeeping in an abandoned asylum on a mountaintop where they raise two creepy kids, Wednesday (voice of Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (voice of Finn Wolfhard).

All is going to Hell just the way the Addams like it until the present day when a developer drains their moat, which causes the mist surrounding their haunted mansion to dissipate. Suddenly, Gomez and his brood have a clear view of the valley below and it's of a massive master-planned community like Bulle Rock in Maryland, Heritage here in Raleigh, and The Villages in Florida. It's called Assimilation, and everybody is happy, everybody is healthy, and conformity is the lifestyle.

But the project's leader, a garish reality-TV home improvement celebrity named Margaux Needler (voice of Allison Janney) immediately takes a dislike to the eyesore on the mountaintop and puts plans into motion to drive the Addams from their midst. In a movie that up until that point had been mostly dark-humored one-liners and ghoulish puns and sight gags, the film takes a sinister turn when the Addams start to be referred to as "freaks," "monsters," "undesirables," and told they don't belong. It conjures up some of the worst ugliness of our country's past, and it doesn't mix well with the classic Addams Family humor that fans have known for decades and the first 20 or so minutes of the film skillfully recreates.

Weirdly, though, the Addams are oblivious to Margaux's manipulations for a large part of the running time. And even at under 90 minutes, it takes a while to get to the climax where this particular populace marches against them. When the big confrontation comes, though -- and this is where I have to be general -- the film wimps out and goes more for a "Can't We All Just Get Along" resolution than one where the Addams really turn the tables on these shiny, happy, dark-hearted suburbanites.

It's all very PC and safe. "We're all different, but we're still the same" and nice messages like that. But it's grafted onto a property that has always been more edgy than that. Sure, you can only get away with so much in a PG-rated cartoon packaged and marketed to kids and families. But, like I said, the set-up was there! And it's been done before. Remember in "Addams Family Values" (1993) when Wednesday was sent to camp and forced to play Pocahontas in the demented counselors' Thanksgiving play? Rather than perform the show as written where the Pilgrims and Native Americans all make nice-nice and have a wonderful meal together, Wednesday rallies the other cast members playing Indians to stage a coup, capture the white cast members, and set the entire production on fire.

THAT is the Addams Family! This, ultimately, is not. There's some great voice work here and some fun individual sequences (I especially loved the sťance in which Morticia summons her dead parents, and they actually have a normal conversation with her from within a bubbling cauldron). But, as a whole, this one just didn't do it for me. I give it a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed October 9, 2019 / Posted October 11, 2019


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