As a writer who has (at least as of recently) tended to focus on darker topics, ranging from haunted houses to horror movies, it may surprise some Movement readers to know that I am not heavily involved in the alternative scene. A lot of my tastes are relatively mundane, and often times I do feel unqualified to discuss some of the films and events I am asked to cover . But I’ve always had a soft spot for the dark and disturbing, and while my outward appearance may not show it, there’s a part of me that loves gothic music, decor, and style. It’s probably that part of me that encouraged my decision to go see the newest addition to the Addams Family franchise.
After being driven out of their previous residence, Gomez and Morticia, a gothic couple, settle down in an abandoned asylum in New Jersey. Thirteen years pass, and things seem to be going well for the family: the couple, their two children, and their butler Lurch now live in complete isolation on top of a foggy hill. After some strange happenings nearby in which balloons and confetti find their way into their asylum-turned mansion, the group heads down to the nearby town of Assimilation (a suburb entirely created by the house flipper Margaux Needler to embody ‘perfection’) to introduce themselves to the neighborhood. But when the town is unable to deal with the Addams’ unique outlook on things, Margaux decides to make completely renovating their mansion the topic of her show’s season finale- at any cost. Unfortunately, this clashes with some other events going on in the family’s life- not only is Wednesday’s newfound interest in the outside world causing conflicts between her and Morticia, but Gomez is nervous about son Puglsey’s upcoming Mazurka ceremony (think of it like a Bat Mitzvah for Goths), where the rest of the family will converge on the house. With both the finale and the Mazurka occurring on the same day, it’s a clash of the ‘correct’ versus the creeps as the house flipper takes drastic measures to make the Addams family her next project.
The plot of the film, as far as these things go, is relatively straightforward: it’s a typical story of ‘weird individuals face prejudice and must fight back against conformity’ that’s been seen time and time before (with films like Uglydolls being very prominent lately). There’s the ‘new kid in school’ plot as Wednesday attempts to enroll in Middle School, the ‘living up to dad’s expectations’ with Pugsley’s Mazurka, and the big final confrontation where everybody meets up at once and all the subplots come crashing down together. If you’ve seen one of this kind of film, you’ve seen them all- but that’s definitely not to say that this film isn’t worth a watch, especially if you’re into gothic design.
Even though the plot does leave something to be desired, there’s still a lot to enjoy about The Addams Family- particularly the settings and backgrounds, which are very well-designed. The house looks creaky and decrepit, with a lot of nice little details- you can almost hear the floorboards creak, and every room of the family’s house has its own unique charms (Pugsley’s room is filled with little gadgets and explosives, and former mental patient Lurch’s chamber is entirely covered in padded mattresses). Ichabod, the living tree outside of the asylum, is decently animated, with swirling and curving branches that look almost like eldritch tentacles. Even the little decorations around the house are fun to look at (such as Wednesday’s bed having a guillotine that she rests her head in to sleep). It’s one of those movies where the little details are what make the film work well. It’s fun to see every little bug crawl and move around, and these tiny additions are the highlight of the relatively standard animation.
The real strong points of the film, however, are the Addams Family themselves- specifically, the connections and relationships they have with each other. It’s quite clear that as creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky as they are, they’re a loving family through and through. It seems like every member of the family, in their own weird way, loves every other denizen of the house (even Lurch, who is seemingly emotionless, hunches his body over the family to protect them when all seems lost in the climax). True, the things they do to show their care for the rest of the family may seem a little off to us, but that’s kind of the point: they genuinely care for each other, and do so in the only ways they know how. With a lot of recent animated films, troubles in the family seem to be major issues, and sometimes it’s nice to see a family just get along through thick and thin.
As by-the-book as the movie is, it’s got a unique kind of charm, especially for a more alternative audience. What it lacks in complete originality, it definitely makes up for in the settings, designs, and characters. Some of the voice actors are surprising, and it’s got a few one-liners from some unexpected people- including Martin Short, Bette Midler, and even a sped-up Snoop Dogg (!) as Cousin Itt. It’s not particularly good, but not awful either. If you’re a fan of gothic design or the Addams Family, you’ll probably appreciate this one more than a typical viewer- but I’d say it’s still worth a watch as a charming family comedy. Remember: just because someone’s heart is cold doesn’t mean they can’t warm someone else’s.
by Brendan Rodenberg for Movement Magazine