REVIEW

The Addams Family with Oscar Isaac voicing Gomez is adorably twee, not spooky

The Addams Family (PG)

3 stars

For 80 years, The Addams Family have been a pop culture phenomenon, beginning with cartoonist Charles Addams' single-panel comics in The New Yorker magazine in 1938, inspiring the iconic television series from 1964, and then a number of cartoon and feature film reimaginings.

From left, Charlize Theron voices Morticia Addams, Chloë Grace Moretz voices Wednesday Addams, Oscar Isaac voices Gomez Addams, Finn Wolfhard voices Pugsley, and Nick Kroll voices Uncle Fester. Picture: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

From left, Charlize Theron voices Morticia Addams, Chloë Grace Moretz voices Wednesday Addams, Oscar Isaac voices Gomez Addams, Finn Wolfhard voices Pugsley, and Nick Kroll voices Uncle Fester. Picture: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

This is both a cartoon and a feature film, a new animated feature that owes more to the original comic panels and with some major talent providing the voices.

The Addams Family must have been brilliantly anti-establishment in the middle of the last century, however, it is something of a victim of its own success.

The family members from the cartoons are delightfully dark, with the boys in the family playing with dynamite for fun, walking their pet octopus, enjoying a charging in the family electric chair.

The family butler may or may not be the monster from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Mother Morticia dead-heads roses for the aesthetic pleasure and in one panel reveals a mane of Medusa-like snakes at the hair salon, while children Pugsley and Wednesday send their dolls to an adorable nursery guillotine. Which is to say this is dark, macabre humour.

However, from the 1960s TV series onwards, this family has helped slowly warp much contemporary humour and society in its image. Every wannabe Goth, every teen angst over-application of eyeliner owes a debt to Wednesday Addams, from Winona Ryder's Beetlejuice character, to Aubrey Plaza's April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation, to whatever lippy thing your own children said to you last week. Whether they knew it or not, that sneer needs to tip its hat to the Addams Family.

I'm getting to a point and it is this - The Addams Family have changed our culture to such a point that being true to its source material, as the new feature by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon is, feels slim and insufficient.

They've helped take contemporary comedy to a much darker place, so that this new film version feels adorably twee. Perfectly fine for a pre-teen discovering the material for the first time, not so much for the grown-up driving them to the movies to see it.

From left, Morticia Addams (voiced by Charlize Theron), Oscar Isaac ( Gomez Addams) and Allison Janney (Margaux Needler) in The Addams Family. Picture: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

From left, Morticia Addams (voiced by Charlize Theron), Oscar Isaac ( Gomez Addams) and Allison Janney (Margaux Needler) in The Addams Family. Picture: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Something of an origin story, the film meets Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) before they first arrive in the US.

Back in "The old country," they are chased from their wedding ceremony by a posse of angry villagers with lit torches.

They flee to the safety of suburban New Jersey, to a former insane asylum with walls that drip blood.

Some years later, their son Pugsley (Finn Wolfard from Stranger Things) is studying for a macabre family coming-of-age ceremony.

Meanwhile, daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) questions their isolation from the surrounding community.

The family might be living in secure suburban America, but the neighbours still have their lit torches.

Here it is self-serving reality TV star and interior decorator Margaux (Allison Janney) and her campaign against the Addams' resistance to a real estate property values-driven neighbourhood beautification program.

Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon made the oddly unfunny gross-out adult animation Sausage Party and they do a fine if uninspired job here crafting a cutesy family film.

Everybody feels a little isolated, wondering at their difference from those around them, which makes us all side with the Addams Family against normalcy, against the drivel of everyday life.

So every attempt to inject a little Addams in our lives should be rewarded.

This story Macabre clan have lost some bite first appeared on The Canberra Times.