Have you ever heard the phrase "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" Of course you have, we all have. It's been drilled into our heads since we were old enough to walk. However, no matter how old we get, we all have trouble following this sage advice from time to time. The theme of the new animated comedy The Addams Family is all about looking past the cover to what's inside. Ironically enough, that was also the theme of my story watching The Addams Family, which is probably the biggest surprise of 2019.
I didn't follow the rules. I judged a book by its cover, or in this case, judged a movie by its marketing. The Addams Family seemed like an afterthought with just a few scattered ads appearing online and a pretty strange animation style, not to mention the fact that it's based on a property that's been revisited several times over the years. To be honest, I wasn't excited at all walking into that movie, but I was nothing but smiles on the way out. The Addams Family is twisted, macabre, hilarious, and utterly sincere; a mix that few films are able to find. It's quite good.
The Addams Family tells the story of the classic Charles Addams comic strip characters who move into a haunted asylum on a hill overlooking a foggy swamp, hoping never to be bothered by the dangerous outside world. The likes of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch, and Thing live their twisted lives in seclusion until they realize that a generic neighborhood has been built at the bottom of the hill by home improvement superstar Margaux Needler, aptly called "Assimilation." The goal of Margaux and her neighborhood is to make everyone exactly the same, abiding by the same social rules and dressing the same way. Seeing the Addams' house on the hill puts a dent in her plan for new homes, causing Margaux to try to solve the problem herself. Meanwhile the Addams', particularly Gomez and Wednesday, become increasingly curious about the strange and pastel-clad people living below.
The casting of The Addams Family couldn't be stronger. Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron are perfectly placed in the roles of Gomez and Morticia, parts that they could easily play in a live-action format. Chloë Grace Moretz shines as Wednesday, always the true star of an Addams Family story, and Finn Wolfhard is a truly funny Pugsley. Nick Kroll, Allison Janney, Bette Midler, Tituss Burgess, and every other member of this all-star cast team up to create a community on screen that you will want to live in for quite a while.
This cast couldn't be better, but they're not the biggest driving force behind the film's charm. The greatest thing about The Addams Family is its willingness to get dark, creepy, and absolutely weird in the best possible way. This film talks about death in a very normal way, it jokes about dismemberment, it shows a family hitting stranded patients with their car, and a young boy being buried alive by his sister. The Addams Family is just as delightfully demented as the original comic strip and, like its source material, keeps a warm and vibrant heart at its core.
Themes of horror and the macabre are often absent from films designed for kids and families, which is really frustrating and unfortunate. The Addams Family is well aware of the fact that the generation that grew up reading Goosebumps and watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Ren & Stimpy is older now, settling down, and starting families. It's also aware that computer-generated cartoons, especially those released on the big screen, are all trying to follow the Disney/Pixar model. The Addams Family takes a long look at what's expected of an animated film in 2019 and just laughs at it. This film is different in every way and never once tries to apologize for it.
Kids and horror don't have to exist in separate boxes, nor should they. There's plenty of middle ground in that Venn diagram for things like The Addams Family to exist, they just need to be given a chance. It might not look totally desirable on the surface, but this one is for those who know they're a little different. It's also for those who maybe need a little reminder that being strange is a good thing, and you should celebrate the uniqueness of yourself. This movie is for the Wednesday Addams in all of us, just waiting for the chance to get a little weird.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Addams Family lands in theaters on Friday, October 11th.