Blu-Ray Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY (2019)

It's not great, but it has a pretty good message for parents who might have dragged their kids to it.

Here's something kind of funny. I requested a copy of The Addams Family because I figured it'd be a fun movie to watch with my son Will (aged 5), who enjoyed Nightmare Before Christmas and is currently playing Luigi's Mansion, which are similar "spooky but in a fun way" kind of things. But it took me all week to convince him to watch it; he kept saying it'd be too scary for him, but I was insistent because I knew it couldn't possibly be worse than anything he's seen and had no problem with (plus, well, I didn't want to make time after he went to bed to watch a kid's movie, quite frankly. That's the time for R-rated fare!). So on my 3rd or 4th request I finally got him to watch it, and sure enough, it wasn't even as "scary" as those aforementioned examples, but the lesson of the movie is to stop making your kids try to be like you and let them find their own path. So long story short, I could have used the movie's message about 90 minutes earlier. Sorry, Will!

But just because he wasn't scared doesn't mean he loved it, either. In fact, I'm not quite sure who the ideal target audience for the film would be, as it's not particularly exciting enough to hold a youngster's interest, nor is it consistently funny enough to entertain most adults who likely retain fond memories of the early '90s live-action versions. It's got a fair share of decent gags, but the basic "what normal people think is bad the Addams family finds good" shtick wears thin ("Welcome to our home, make yourself uncomfortable!" kind of lines are inserted every minute) after a while, and despite the trailer playing up a red balloon gag it's not exactly stocked with horror references for the older folks to enjoy, either (Wednesday making a Sutherland-y Body Snatchers point and howl is about as nerdy as it gets). It's the rare PG animated film that parents and children alike may watch hoping that the other is getting more out of it than they are.

That said, the message is strong, thanks to a kid-centric plot that (along with the animation, of course) helps separate it from the Paramount movies. Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac are having fun as Morticia and Gomez, but after a prologue showing their wedding and how they found their iconic home, most of the plot revolves around Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and how they are struggling to balance making their parents proud while also carving their own path. Pugsley is preparing to perform the Mazurka, an Addams family tradition involving swordplay and dancing that marks a transition from boy to man and will add him to the long line of successful renditions of the ritual. But it's clear that he's not particularly interested in doing it, despite Gomez' urging and attempts to train him (with help from Fester, whose limited use in the film is probably the most striking difference between it and the Paramount films that basically revolved around him), as he is more interested in explosives than swords. Meanwhile, Wednesday starts going to public school (which Morticia begrudgingly allows despite the school's lack of cages) and befriends a fairly normal girl, and the two start influencing each other - the friend starts dressing goth while Wednesday sports a pink unicorn pin (the horror!).

Neither of these plots are as funny or even interesting as I hoped, but I enjoyed the basic sentiment, especially considering the circumstances that led to how we watched the movie in the first place. Despite my long-standing love of horror (and early access to it; by the time I was Will's age I had already seen Poltergeist and Gremlins), I think I've done a pretty good job of not forcing my own interests on him, but the film made me realize I have a little work to do in that department since I'm sure he would have preferred to have been watching one of his usual shows (PJ Masks, Paw Patrol... the usual suspects) than a "Daddy movie". So maybe that's the target audience: parents who need a reminder that their children may share their blood and presumably some physical traits, but they are not mini-versions of them, and they shouldn't have their parents' ways and interests forced upon them. In the end, both children stand by their family when the need arises (thanks to a subplot about a deranged Martha Stewart-type who wants to demolish their home and make it fit with the rest of the pastel-driven town), but hold on to their own ways of doing things. It's not a great movie, no, but for that little reminder alone, it'll be worth a rental. And if your kid decides to watch it with you, that's just a nice bonus.