The Addams Family is back. Over 70 years after its creation and 20 years since the last Addams Family film—the direct-to-video Addams Family Reunion—there’s a splashy new trailer for a family-friendly, computer-generated, star-studded reboot. The trailer tells us a lot about the film, but it also leaves us wondering why we should care.
The Addams Family began as a collection of cartoons published in The New Yorker. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugley, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt formed a macabre, mansion-dwelling crew unconcerned with public appearances, satirizing the image-obsessed affectations of the upper class.
But starting with a television series in 1964 and continuing with animated series, live-action films, and the best-selling pinball machine of all time, the original highbrow cultural commentary offered by the franchise faded. Its characters became defined by their eccentricities—masochism, a flat affect, ghoulish moaning—played for laughs.
The just-released trailer is a strong indication that the Addams Family of the 21st century will continue this tradition. After an opening sequence in which we learn that “Every family is different, but some families are more different than others,” the camera moves into the iconic, spooky mansion to find Gomez and Morticia standing as short and tall as ever.
“It’s hideous, it’s horrible, it’s home,” they say as the instantly recognizable, finger-snapping theme begins to play. When Wednesday enters a room carrying a balloon, Morticia says that she usually sees such things attached to “murderous clowns,” a joke that’s subversive when you’re young but doesn’t do much for anyone old enough to have seen an R-rated movie in theatres.
What follows is a series of slapstick bits: the masochistic Gomez tightening his head in a vise, Uncle Fester in a bathtub falling through the ceiling, a sentient tree flinging Pugsley through the air.
The trailer leaves the impression that this film will be a light, likely G- or PG-rated farce that makes Halloween “monsters” its heroes. Viewers who enjoyed the TV series of the 1960s and 1970s or the films of the 1990s are too old to be entertained by its humor, and the CGI means this film doesn’t feel like any of those earlier iterations anyways.
That leaves today’s kids as the target audience. They already have three (soon to be four) Hotel Transylvania movies that offer a highly similar sensibility. The Addams Family, despite its long lineage, is left feeling like its piggybacking off the success of a much younger franchise.
Now, some caveats. It’s hard to judge a movie by its first trailer, and the voice cast is admittedly fantastic, with Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Oscar Isaac, Nick Kroll, Allison Janney, and Bette Midler lending their talents. And kids may not care that its sensibility isn’t exactly original.
So we’re not saying that this new film won’t be worth watching. We’re just saying that this first trailer doesn’t really leave us wanting more.