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The Addams Family (2019)::rating::2.5::rating::2.5

It was only a matter of time before somebody dredged up some goth makeup and fake blood for another Addams Family reboot.  The key change with this version is how it sands off the rough edges that made the other incarnations so great.  Here, the trademark Addams eccentricity has been molded into a marketably cute CGI form.  Jokes are milder.  The visuals are less grungy and pallid.  It’s all perfectly pleasant, and yet thoroughly uninspired.  This shrewd approach might put more asses in theater seats, but it also subtracts too much black magic along the way.

Anybody who’s seen “Nick at Nite” or rented one of the classic Raul Julia movies will know the story of the Addams family:  They’re a tight clan of affable monsters, possessed of their own lovable quirks and traditions.  Everyone around them treats the family like gangly weeds in a garden, eyesores meant to be plucked and chucked.  Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) respond to this intolerance by holing the family up in a Tim Burton-style mansion and sealing themselves from the outside world.  Cue Margaux (Allison Janney), a celebrity house-flipper who resolves to either renovate their grimy house or destroy it altogether.

All the familiar faces pop up for this Addams odyssey:  Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) faces down junior high bullies.  Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) has to survive a rite of passage to become a man of the Family.  Lurch, the lumbering valet, also supplies spry accompaniment on the organ.  (One inspired bit:  Thing, the disembodied hand, plunks the melody while Lurch plays the rhythm figure.)  Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg) don’t have much to do, other than provide filler for a few scenes.

I mean, it’s all okay.  I guess.  The animation looks slick, while also paying homage to the comic strip by Charles Addams.  (No relation, I think.)  Two observations:  Gomez comes out looking like a strange cross of Peter Lorré and Kim Jong Un, and Cousin Itt bears a strong resemblance to Leon Russell.  Just my thoughts. The voice actors do acceptable work, but never really distinguish themselves.  Everything that’s barely adequate about this movie just demonstrates how much is missed from the versions that preceded it.

Full confession:  I was only a casual fan of the original TV show.  The Munsters were more my bag back then.  But I loved–loved–the 90s movies.  Raul Julia brought an unhinged theatricality that added new layers of humor to Gomez.  Angelica Huston’s cheerfully detached nihilism is criminally underrated.  (A character asks if a visibly ill Gomez has been coughing up blood.  “Not like he used to,” Morticia notes, crestfallen.)  The brilliant Addams Family Values finally made the joke clear:  Loving and loyal, the Addams Family were more normal and adjusted than the squawking suburban weirdos all around them.  The satirical punch of those movies was a dose of black coffee, while this one drowns in cream and sugar.

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