‘Wednesday’ brings some morbid fun to another Addams Family adaptation

Published 5:24 pm Friday, December 9, 2022

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My brother recently let me temporarily borrow his Netflix account, and he told me not to watch anything weird with it.

Well, sorry brother, but I ended up binge-watching the new series about a certain member of a “creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky” family, and it definitely qualifies as “weird!” The show, “Wednesday”, is centered on the titular daughter of the Addams family as she gets sent off to a boarding school for all sorts of strange and supernatural people.

It’s produced by Tim Burton (who also directed half of the eight episodes), features music from Danny Elfman, and stars Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams.

The show probably isn’t an Emmy-worthy production, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway! I can’t say how it compares to other Addams Family television shows or movies from the past you might be more familiar with, but here are a few reasons I think this adaptation might be worth checking out:

Firstly, the main plot is a murder mystery which gives viewers the chance at trying to piece together the clues along with Wednesday. When she arrives at the boarding school (appropriately named Nevermore Academy in a nod to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous work), Wednesday meets a plethora of characters at the school and the nearby town who could be the secret monster that’s murdering people in the woods.

Of course, Wednesday Addams isn’t the kind of stately detective like Sherlock Holmes or other famous sleuths. She’s just as delightfully morbid as the rest of her odd family, perhaps even more so since she’s a teenager here. And I’m sure we all remember how moody teenagers can be! So she investigates with some single-minded determination, and plenty of underhanded tactics… with emphasis on “hand” courtesy of her faithful disembodied hand companion, Thing.

Amidst the gristly murders, however, is a lot of humor (particularly of the morbid variety) that balances out the series. The charm of the original Addams Family cartoons, created by Charles Addams several decades ago, was that they were a creepy and kooky family who did things just a bit differently than everyone else. Like asking their neighbor for a “cup of cyanide” instead of a “cup of sugar” or preparing to pour a bubbling cauldron onto a group of cheerful Christmas carolers. That kind of humor translates to this series as well, with examples like Wednesday’s deadpan response when her roommate asks “care to take a stab at being social?”

Wednesday replies “I do like stabbing… The social part, not so much.”

For anyone choosing to watch the series because they’re feeling nostalgic about past Addams Family adaptations, such as the 1960s television show or the 1990s movies, this new show throws in a few shoutouts to satisfy those fans. There’s a fun reference to the iconic two snaps from the 60s television theme song. And Christina Ricci, who portrayed Wednesday Addams herself in the 90s movies, has a recurring role in this new series.

But overall, the series is a bit different than previous stories about the strange family, since it’s focused on Wednesday at school. But the rest of the family does get to make a few memorable appearances along the way. I particularly liked Fred Armisen’s portrayal of Uncle Fester, even if it’s way too brief! He’s very good not only at delivering his lines in a funny way, but also adding visual humor to his role as well.

But overall, I think the best reason to check out the series is because of the underlying stories being told beneath the murder mystery. The series touches on themes about the sometimes-fraught relationships between parents and their children, the idea of being alone versus relying on the support of others, and how to get along and coexist with people who are different from you. That last one in particular is one that we all should take to heart, especially when it seems that our society keeps becoming more and more divided every day.

The execution of these themes can be clunky at times, but I think these ideas were interesting enough that I’m still thinking about them even days after I finished watching it all.

Even though Christmas is coming up soon, I’d recommend this series to anyone who’s still in a bit of a Halloween mood. It’s fun and engaging to watch, either by yourself or with your own strange family. (Some bits might be too gory for younger kids though, so check ahead if you’re thinking about watching it with anyone under 12.)

I think teenagers in particular might be the ones who would be the most entertained by the series, since the main cast of mainly teenagers will be very relatable them. I know I felt a bit nostalgic watching it, thinking back to simpler times when the biggest drama in life was figuring out who you were going to take to the school dance and deciding which school club to join.

But thankfully, I never had to solve a murder mystery while also trying to pass high school math.

All eight episodes of “Wednesday” are currently streaming on Netflix. Be careful not to accidentally binge them all until 3 a.m. one night like I did!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.