MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘The Addams Family’ too vanilla to be spooky or ooky


When Hollywood decides to reboot an old property to cash in on nostalgia these days it opts for one of two choices — either soften it for the kiddies or spice it up for the adults.

The producers of the CGI-animated “Addams Family” took the former approach and squeezed a whole lot of the fun out of the property in the process.

Personally, I wasn’t looking for the movie to give me a fright or to be risqué, but this film, which can be described as Simpsons-extra-lite, makes sweet milk and cornbread sound dangerous. Really it’s a sleight to “The Simpsons” to even compare it to this movie, which is too tame for its own good.

The movie got off to a decent start, giving us a look at the wedding of Morticia (voiced by Charlize Theron) and Gomez (voice of Oscar Isaac) and how it was nearly broken up by villagers who wanted the Addams’ and their freaky kind out of their territory.

It sent the newly weds out looking for a place where no one would be caught dead — New Jersey. There they met their soon-to-be butler Lurch (voice of Conrad Vernon) and find an abandoned and yet haunted insane asylum atop an ominous hill in which to live.

From here the movie slides downhill, quickly devolving into a parable of tolerance and acceptance that’s just isn’t that fun.

The story picks up 13 years later with siblings Wednesday (voice of Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (voice of Finn Wolfhard) are trying to kill each other, Thing the disembodied hand helping Lurch with the housework, and Grandmama (Voice of Bette Midler) and Uncle Fester (voice of Nick Kroll) up to tame versions of their usual wild antics.

However when a TV real-estate agent named Margaux Needler (voice of Allison Janney), who is conducting a town-wide, homogenized makeover, has the swamp drained, the Addams and their ghoulish home lose their natural foggy covering. The overbearing Margaux, fearing the creepy mansion will hurt her sales, threatens to remodel the Addams’ home to fit in with the rest of the community or to run the Addams out of town for not conforming.

There’s also a subplot of Pugsley training for an ancient Addams’ rite of passage dealing with a sword duel that will bring the long-distance members of Addams family to town.

I enjoyed the film’s stylish design that echoed the original Charles Addams comic strip and the animation a great deal, and the movie did have a few gags that made me chuckle, but overall the voice acting and the story just seemed worn and tired.

There’s better family-friendly entertainment — old and new — playing regularly on television, or offered on numerous streaming services or in theaters..

A couple of weeks ago, I gave the animated feature “Abominable” a B-, but right now I’m feeling guilty for that. It is a far more entertaining movie than “The Addams Family,” and a much better choice for a family outing to the theater.

(PG) 1 hr. 27 min.
Grade: C-

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Gemini Man(PG-13) 1 hr. 57 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Rogers Towne, Bentonville Skylight
  • Jexi(R) 1 hr. 24 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Springdale Malco, Malco Rogers Towne
  • The Addams Family(PG) 1 hr. 27 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Springdale Malco, Malco Rogers Towne, Bentonville Skylight

Classic Corner – Alien (Malco Razorback)

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

In space, no one can hear you scream. What a chilling tag line for one of the best science-fiction and horror movies ever made, Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”

I was not old enough to see the R-rated “Alien” in 1979, but my 18-year-old babysitter bought me a ticket and dragged me to see it. The movie scared me more than any movie I had ever seen up to that point, with only the PG-rated “Jaws,” which I saw four years earlier, coming close.

While “Jaws” remains one my all-time favorite movies, it wasn’t as unrelentingly tense or scary to me as “Alien,” which absolutely riveted me to my seat from the first time I saw the face-hugger to demonic chest-bursting worm, to the gigantic, acidic saliva dripping behemoth that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finally incinerates after it decimated the rest of the crew of the spacecraft Nostromo.

Today the creatures from the film aren’t exactly cuddly, but as the film grew from being a hit at the box office into a full-fledged franchise inspiring everything from toys and video games to comics and all other manner of licensed merchandise, much of the thrill and chills are gone.

However at its debut no one had ever seen a creature like Alien. It was a fantastic masterpiece of a villain because throughout the course of the film it continued to morph into something bigger, uglier, and more fantastic each time you encountered it. We had all seen werewolf transformations before, but we never had seen a monster grow increasingly more threatening and violent as a movie progressed. Just when you thought you had a grip on it, it became even more grotesque and dangerous.

Weaver in her first lead role was a great and capable heroine whom you feared for but still believed capable of besting the beast with her will and wits.

Just as the film made Weaver a star, it vaulted Scott into being a major director who later gave us such films as “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Gladiator, and “The Martian.”

Though the movie is set in space, Scott shot it like a haunted-house movie and left audiences gasping.

In celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary, the Malco Razorback Cinema is holding two special showings of “Alien” at 1 p.m. Sunday, and 7 p.m. Wednesday.