Droll comedy makes up for lack of plot



87 minutes/Opens today/ 3.5 Stars

The story: This animated adaptation of the classic live-action television show and movie series (1991 and 1993) opens with an angry mob driving the Addams family from their ancestral home because the clan is thought to be evil. Searching for a new refuge away from "normal" people, the family settle in a place ugly and inhospitable enough for their needs - New Jersey. But after 13 years of bliss, their beloved haunted mansion is in danger of demolition to make way for a new planned community called Assimilation.

Shows centred on the Addams family are culture-clash comedies in which members of the famously macabre troupe extend a friendly hand - sometimes literally, in the form of the disembodied Thing - to folks who look wholesome but harbour bad intentions.

The don't-judge-a-book-by-its-ghoulish-cover premise has been hauled out of the crypt for this funny, if uneven, work, the first animated movie based on the characters who first appeared in a comic strip in the 1930s.

A-listers do the voices of the core members. Oscar Isaac does Gomez, the father, and Charlize Theron handles Morticia, his wife and mother to Wednesday and Pugsley, voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz and Finn Wolfhard respectively. Uncle Fester, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt are here too.

It feels like a long time since Addams-style wordplay was last in cinemas and it feels good to hear it again. Asked if she would like to go to a mall, Wednesday perks up: "I haven't been to a good mauling in ages."

While this PG-rated work has no adult material -even Gomez's lustful advances to wife Morticia, a feature of earlier screen adaptations, is toned down - the jokes are aimed at an older crowd.

Co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, who first partnered on the painfully unfunny Seth Rogen-led raunchy animated comedy Sausage Party (2016), wisely take their time with the pacing of the sight gags and verbal jokes.

There is barely a plot. The villain is the greedy land developer and television host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). She is the big, loud, screechy consumerist foil to the Addams sophisticates, but that thread is so half-baked it is insulting.

This misstep is redeemed by the droll ensemble comedy that is the result of Addams folks performing everyday Addams routines - such as Wednesday and Pugsley trying with blades and bombs to become the only child, with their parents looking on proudly, stepping in only to correct their aim.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Droll comedy makes up for lack of plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe