Courtesy of UA/MGM
Delivering the sort of morbid humor one expects with “The Addams Family,” the new animated comedy has enough belly laughs to show that America’s creepiest neighbors still know how to have a spooky good time. Considering 21 years has past since we last saw this clan on the big screen, it’s somewhat refreshing to see them reinvented in their natural habitat: cartoons. Thanks to writers Pamela Pettler and Matt Lieberman, along with animation veterans Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, “The Addams Family” is back with a stellar voice cast that includes: Oscar Isaac as the head patriarch Gomez, Charlize Theron as his wife Morticia, as well as Chole Grace Moretz and Finn Wolfred as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams respectively.
“The Addams Family” does a solid job maintaining the sense of dread and humor, and how on a daily basis family members try to concoct schemes to harm or kill each other, in classic form. Those ideals already seemed cartoonish in the live action Barry Sonnenfeld directed films, so the strange and pudgy looking animation actually lends itself to the source material. Each of these characters have a fun appeal to them, and we see it in Wednesday's demeanor while trying to bury her brother alive, or how Puglsy loves planting explosives. Hell, Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Lurch (Conrad Vernon) bring their own swagger to the picture. Their house is filled with various kinds of harmful contraptions, man-eating plants, a pet lion, and angry demons wanting them to leave.
In most cases, the situational and darkly comic one liners come naturally, especially with the films twisted sense of humor. It’s clear the filmmakers dug through every grave to try and conjure up some sense of irreverent side gags. One scene finds Gomez visiting a local coffee shop, where he ends up leaving with a filter full of raw coffee beans, describing how scrumptious they are on the walk home. Another is Wednesday attending public school and she deadpan calls it a prison for children or how Mortica exclaims a bright red balloon usually has a child eating clown attached at the end (a reference the little ones won’t understand).
It helps that most of the actors behind the mic elevate their respective characters, particularly Theron and Mortez whose comic timing is the main selling point for “The Addams Family.” And though Kroll and Isaac try their best to manifest some spark with Gomez and Fester, there left to wait in the wings while the woman get to bask in the fun (including Allison Janney as a control freak home decorator bent on turning the Addams mansion into a picturesque utopia).
The main issues with “The Addams Family” is actually how hard it tries to fit in. For most of the film, the characters are left to dabble in their strange personalities. That is until the final stretch where the film clogs a message of self acceptance and “be yourself” down your throat as is a mandate in most animated offerings. I’d argue the reason anyone likes to hang out with this family is because of how silly and offbeat they are. Yet it’s strangest theme is how quickly the family tries to conform with societal standards.
So while it doesn’t have the most original themes in a kid friendly film, there’s still enough classic macabre “Addams Family” antics to help entertain the casual viewer and perhaps win over a new generation of fans in the process. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Lurch sing a soothing rendition of “Everybody Hurts?” Snap. Snap.