LONDON: Netflix’s “The Addams Family” spin-off is a melting pot of horror and hormones.
It’s safe to say that those familiar with the Hollywood trivia that Tim Burton passed on directing 1991’s “The Addams Family” (due to a scheduling conflict with “Batman Returns”) might have expected him to return to the spooky series at some point. Less predictable, however, would be the idea that he would do so as executive producer (and director of four episodes) of a coming-of-age spin-off Netflix series focusing on the family’s daughter, Wednesday.
“Wednesday” is an eight-part comedy horror show that follows the Addams family’s only daughter as she is enrolled at an austere school for supernatural outcasts. In her first week, however, Wednesday finds herself caught up in an intricate web of secret societies, rampaging monsters and murderous conspiracies — much to her morbid satisfaction.
Jenna Ortega (who Netflix regulars may recognize as Ellie from the second season of “You”) plays the titular teen, who finds her sense of macabre isolationism at odds with the strict school principal (played by Gwendoline Christie), her over-earnest therapist (Riki Lindhome), new roommate Enid (Emma Myers) and teacher Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the two Addams Family live-action movies). Accompanied by Thing, a disembodied hand with a penchant for obscene finger gestures, Wednesday must not only unmask a murderer, but also navigate the minefield of a school full of hormonal teenagers.
In some ways, “Wednesday” is great — Ortega is every bit as natural a fit for the role as Ricci was in the 1990s. Burton manages to include some nice nods to the franchise as a whole, and there’s a pleasingly dark aesthetic to the show that frames the more sinister aspects of the story with aplomb. But in others, it’s a little harder to stomach.
The teenage angst feels at odds with the murderous narrative, some of the CGI work is a little schlocky, and elements of the overly emotive high school tropes feel more like cut scenes from “Dawson’s Creek” than a primetime Netflix show. But it’s a fun time, that’s for sure, and it’s nice to see Burton flexing his trademark style and gloomy verve.