Ever since the Addams Family’s inception in 1938, an abundance of films, shows, comics, games and more have been created about the world’s favorite macabre family. Netflix’s comedy horror series “Wednesday,” released on Nov. 23, is yet another 21st-century take on the Addams Family, crafting a compelling narrative among the seemingly endless iterations of the franchise. However, it fails at times to produce the charm and chemistry it’s aiming for.
After getting revenge on her brother’s bullies, Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is sent to Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts. However, as a string of murders occurs and disrupts their quiet town, Wednesday must use her keen wit to solve who is behind the killings, all the while dealing with her newfound psychic visions and a cold case involving her parents during their time at Nevermore.
Ortega does a phenomenal job in her portrayal of the disquieting, defiant Wednesday. Her stunning performance is not only a majority of the show’s entertainment factor, but Ortega is able to carry the series even through its cheesiest dialogue — and it is certainly cheesy at times.
Ortega wasn’t the only standout performance, though. Fred Armisen’s Uncle Fester, despite being introduced towards the end of the show, was rather striking and an incredibly comedic and memorable performance. Likewise, Victor Dorobantu, the performer behind Thing — a sentient disembodied hand — stole the show, deserving utmost praise for such a unique, and at times heartwrenching, performance despite being limited to simply a hand. Additionally, bringing back Christina Ricci, known for playing Wednesday in the ’90s films “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values,” as teacher Marilyn Thornhill was a stellar homage to the show’s predecessors.
“Wednesday” certainly takes a different direction with Wednesday’s character, branching off from previous depictions of her as cold, morbid and heartless and instead crafting a teenage version that is more open to emotions and sympathy. While this certainly dulls the show’s darkness at times, it’s worth it to see Wednesday’s interactions with her peers. Whether it’s her push-and-pull relationship with her bright and cheerful roommate Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers) or her endearing protective instinct over Eugene Otinger (Moosa Mostafa), Wednesday has incredible chemistry with her classmates.
However, this makes the romance she is shoehorned into all the more dreadful. Wednesday is stuck between Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan), a local barista wound up in her search for the truth, and Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes White), a lonely student at Nevermore interested in the arts. Inserting Wednesday into a love triangle is unbearable as is, and the profound lack of chemistry between her and her love interests makes the whole ordeal tedious and nauseating. Uncle Fester said you could cut the romantic tension with an executioner’s axe — an insult to executioner’s axes everywhere. This problem isn’t limited to Wednesday’s love triangle either; each romantic pairing in the show lacks any amount of chemistry. Even Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Morticia Addams (Catherine Zeta-Jones), known for their unconditional love and adoration for each other, are so profoundly dreary one wishes they had forgone romance altogether.
Nonetheless, “Wednesday” weaves a story that is gripping, tempting viewers to watch it in one sitting. Wednesday’s persistence and desire to find the truth amidst an immense amount of mystery and deception make the series that much more enticing. Where the chemistry between characters falls flat, the narrative picks up much of the slack. Alongside some incredible performances from actors such as Ortega, “Wednesday” ends up being a worthy watch.
“Wednesday” loses some of the charm that many associate with the Addams Family in favor of modernization, making the portrayal of the family jarring at times, but “Wednesday” succeeds and is entertaining in its own right, carving out its place in the Addams Family franchise. The series may have its flaws, but as a whole, it is a captivating and humorous take on the ever-enchanting Addams Family.