Set within the walls of a spooky, seen-it-before school for outcast children, the new Tim Burton-produced Netflix series WEDNESDAY feels less like an updated THE ADDAMS FAMILY and more like yet another RIVERDALE/CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA rehash—and not in a fun way.

After years and years of anticipating a new adaptation of THE ADDAMS FAMILY (the recent animated features were forgettable at best), Tim Burton finally got his hands on the rights to a new series that would follow a teenage Wednesday Addams as she attends the same boarding school her parents attended 32 years prior: Nevermore Academy. The mix of Tim Burton and The Addams feels like a match made in heaven (or hell) until you see it come to fruition. While serving as executive producer and directing four of the eight episodes, the series somehow feels very little like a Tim Burton production. A beautiful, gothic score overseen by Danny Elfman helps, but something seems to be missing from the overall feel of the series.

Casting is hit-or-miss. Jenna Ortega, who’s had an excellent year in the horror genre, having starred in SCREAM and Ti West’s X, shines as the titular character. She delivers her dark and smart-aleck remarks with the perfect amount of deadpan mixed with the faintest hint of a smirk behind the eyes. Over the years, the character has become iconic, largely in part due to Christina Ricci’s classic performances in THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) and ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993.) While it may seem impossible not to compare the two performances, Ortega brings just enough of her own wit to the role to make it her own while satisfying exactly what we want out of the woeful teenager.

The rest of the Addams’ are less satisfactory. Catherina Zeta-Jones does a just-fine job as Morticia, unfortunately bringing nothing very compelling to the role. She delivers lines just above a whisper and is always misty-eyed, as though she’s constantly at a funeral or wake. Something is just…missing. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s her fault—she should be perfect in the role. However, her brief scenes lend her little in the way of fun or witty dialogue, and something is just off about her aesthetic design—I can’t place it. I think it’s her makeup. In going for a more natural, less cartoonish look, it seems they’ve missed an opportunity to make the character look as iconic as she ought to. The disappointment in the cast, however, is Luis Guzmán, who looks perfect as the portly, short, cartoon-to-screen character, but delivers his poorly written lines with a dramatic flair I’ve only seen in the most mediocre of community theatre productions. He’s shown talent throughout his career but is out of his depth in this role. Isaac Ordonez as Pugsley does a great job with an unfortunately uninteresting character. The writers do give him a little more to do than past iterations, but there’s only so much to be done. Lurch (George Burcea) barely makes an appearance, and Grandmama is missing altogether. Other notable cast are Gwendoline Christie as Principal Larissa Weems, who is truly stunning as usual, and actually does something with the repetitive and droll scenes she’s given. Christina Ricci also returns to the Addams’ Universe, this time as dorm mother Marylin Thornhill, who’s also the professor of carnivorous plants at the academy (the only class these students appear to attend.) Her scenes with Wednesday are fun, and she does nothing to attempt to steal the spotlight from Ortega. She’s actually well-utilized throughout the series.

The biggest disappointment with the series is that, ultimately, I’ve seen it before—again and again, and again. It follows the same murder mystery plot synopsis of every teeny-bopper CW series or RIVERDALE knock-off that’s been released within the last decade or so. There’s nothing new. Even the students at the Nevermore Academy, consisting of werewolves, vampires, and gorgons, seem lazy and out of touch with the lore of THE ADDAMS FAMILY as a universe. Gone are the funny reactions of “normies” as they encounter the Addams’ kookie and spooky antics, replaced now with uninteresting representations of prejudice and racism. These themes could have been explored and delivered more effectively but just come off as forced.

The show isn’t entirely unenjoyable; a memorable scene at the school dance shows us how a teenage member of The Addams Family might slither about on the dance floor set to The Cramps’ GOO GOO MUCK—it’s perfect. There are also a lot of excellent scenes involving the animated appendage Thing. (It’s concerning when the most scene-stealing character doesn’t actually have a body.) I do wish we’d seen more of Uncle Fester, portrayed here by Fred Armisen. He is well—yet, underutilized.

When it comes down to it, I think expectations were so high for this series I couldn’t help but be disappointed. In 2015, comedian Melissa Hunter produced and starred in the popular YouTube web series ADULT WEDNESDAY ADDAMS. It followed the character as she branched out on her own as a young adult doing such day-to-day tasks as finding an apartment, searching for employment, and fending off sexual predators. The series was better written and more in line with what we’ve all come to love and expect from the character, but it was cut short when the Charles Addams estate demanded a cease and desist. This premise and approach were way more appealing than a recycled plotline about outcast teenagers at a spooky school. The new series is full of predictable red herrings and tired plot devices, yet it appears to be a hit, and why wouldn’t it be—it follows the same tried-and-true young adult genre plot we’ve seen over and over. If it works, it works. It just doesn’t work for me.

WEDNESDAY is available to stream on Neftlix.

Ricky J Duarte

[He/him/his] Ricky is an actor, singer, and writer in New York City. Passions include: theme parks, Disney villains, and watching horror movies with his cat. He's also the host of the RICK OR TREAT HORRORCAST podcast.

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