The day is becoming most wonderfully disruptive.
What exactly the “old country” is in context with the latest iteration of Charles Addams‘ beloved The Addams Family is unknown. Are we to infer Transylvania? Maybe. Does the film itself pretty much just show Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) driving until they hit a straight-jacketed inmate (Lurch) escaped from an abandoned asylum up on a hill? Yes. Does a patient escaping a building with no occupants seem strange? Sure, but that’s kind of par for the course. Asking questions about coherence is a fool’s errand with plenty of kid’s fare these days, so be happy we’re given enough to parse out that the Addamses were being harassed and have now decided to build their family in isolation to shield their children from a similar fate.
We need at least this because screenwriter Matt Lieberman hinges the entire plot on that torch burning bigotry. With the help of directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, he concocts a narrative wherein young Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) have never seen the “real” world. Their parents settled here mostly because the hospital was creepy and haunted by a spirit, but the fact that it was surrounded by miles of marshland definitely sealed the deal. Now, on the cusp of Pugsley’s horror variation on a Bar Mitzvah by way of a Polish mazurka, however, it’s discovered that a reality television home improvement magnate (Allison Janney‘s Margaux Needler) has drained the area and built an unsubtle little for-sale, message-themed town aptly branded as Assimilation.
Has civilization evolved in the thirteen years since Gomez and Morticia went hermit? She’s rightfully skeptical to presume there’s no way while he optimistically readies to greet their new neighbors and harmoniously reconnect with humanity. In so doing, we meet young Parker Needler (Elsie Fisher) and discover the mirror effect that has been created. She yearns to rebel against the plastic existence her mother has manufactured for profit just as Wednesday wonders what it is that her own mother is preventing her from experiencing. Margaux wants her daughter to be the perfect idealized suburban child for ratings while Morticia strives for hers to become the darkest lurker of an oddity as possible to do the family proud. The girls inevitably collide to seek balance through autonomy.
And some introspective parenting on behalf of the boys (Has Gomez’s quest to see Pugsley rival him in his mazurka sword-swinging prowess selfishly prevented him from being proud of what his son has done with explosives instead?) and the film has no qualms with driving its point home with a hammer to the head as though having a family of “monsters” trying to survive suburbia wasn’t blunt enough already. Thankfully the ways in which the girls test their mothers’ patience is effectively drawn with Parker shaving her head and Wednesday *gasp* wearing a unicorn barrette because those satirical moments keep our attention when the rest seems intent on losing it. See Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) for the latter with the kid-friendliest throwaway joke topic ever: pedophilia.
The nods to the original show (they pretty much recreate the opening credits for the end credits here) and horror legends (Wednesday is portrayed looking and pointing like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers when telling reanimated frogs to attack Parker’s bully), there’s a lot to keep parents awake aesthetically if not narratively. And the kids should have fun with the weird antics of Wednesday trying to kill Pugsley and Pugsley trying to kill Gomez alone. The whole possesses a bit of a randomness as a result of filling the thin plot with comedic set-pieces, but none of it goes against the message of inclusion to render any moments out-of-place. You simply must wade through the noise to latch onto those pieces revealing the overall purpose.
If I were to really dig deep, I could probably say Lieberman does less to let his mob redeem itself than skirt their complicity by blaming Margaux as leader. I don’t, however, think there’s enough here to spend that kind of time when the superficiality of empathy and acceptance comes through regardless. So I’ll applaud the voice casting (Isaac, Theron, Moretz, and Janney are inspired) and wonder how Snoop Dogg was approached to play Cousin It (the character still speaks in gibberish, but is introduced to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” from Snoop and Pharrell Williams) instead. Things get more random too once Lurch covers R.E.M.‘s “Everybody Hurts” (as performed by Fuzz Finnegan), ultimately proving the film is more meme than animated classic-in-the-making. It’s, in a word, fine.
courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.