Wednesday is charming, cheeky and appropriately quirky throughout, paying homage to the original movies in many sweet ways. Yet the series tries to cram too many genres into its overstuffed narrative and falls into many of the pitfalls of modern TV. This will polarize fans, but it’s still a welcomed addition to the franchise.
We review the Netflix series Wednesday season 1, which does not contain spoilers.
One of the many joys of the original nineties Addams Family movies was the perfect casting of Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams. Her mischievous manner and deadpan delivery made for a cinematic treat, while her vengeful ways at Camp Chippewa led to some hilarious scene-stealing moments. Ricci herself is back in this Addams Family updating, although she doesn’t play the titular character. That role goes to Jenna Ortega (Scream, You), who makes for a delightful addition, but can’t quite match Ricci’s devilish portrayal. The series on the whole kind of falls into a similar category, it’s great, but it isn’t anywhere near the same quality as the iconic, original live-action films.
Tim Burton helped develop and direct this modernization of the Addams Family world, with Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. And Burton leaves his mark all over this teen drama. There’s some dazzling visuals and the custom painstaking attention to detail, whilst the supernatural, gothic style is right up his street. Wednesday is quickly expelled from her current high school, for attempting to kill the school bullies with piranhas no less, and is swiftly sent off to Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts. Here you will find vampires, werewolves, sirens and stoners (I’ll let you surmise what they could be). As well as many other super powered teens and supernatural entities. You’d think Wednesday would fit right in, but she manages to be an outcast amongst outcasts, as rumors spread of her previous antics.
Wednesday is cold and distant, but some of the students try their hardest to befriend her anyway. Roommate Enid (Emma Myers) is a great addition to the cast, she works as the total antithesis to Wednesday. She’s loud, vibrant and outgoing. These juxtaposing students share a room and the imaginary line down the center of the place couldn’t be clearer to see. This is a nice visual gag and the show is full of them. There’s plenty of homages to the original Addams Family narrative too, with an updating of the famous theme tune to get stuck in your head all over again. This modernization isn’t too jarring, although some viewers may be put off by the teen-centric storylines. Expect dances, dates, bullies and teen relationships galore.
Fans of the franchise that are of a certain age may be put off by this teen-heavy approach and the clichéd high school setting, whilst there is a surprising lack of screen time for the iconic Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Gomez (Luis Guzman) or Lurch. However, Thing makes up for this with much more of an appearance, and the creators decide to treat him like a Groot or Grogu type character. This is a stroke of genius, and Thing is one of the highlights of the series. He/it is a hilarious sidekick to Wednesday, who finds herself slap bang in the middle of a murder mystery, with a monster on the loose in the local area. This mystery angle is the crux of the narrative, driving the story forward in each episode. Wednesday is intricately linked to the murders and strives to find answers to this complex conspiracy.
Wednesday does feel like it was purposefully crafted by Netflix executives to appeal to the masses though, with a tick sheet of popular themes and genres under its belt. It’s a teen-centric, high school drama that includes supernatural creatures in a Hogwarts style setting. There’s a mystery to solve and a serial killer on the loose (they’re quite popular right now). The show also includes romance and comedy on top of all of this. It’s very clearly trying to be a lot of things, all at once, and this desire for success does lead to overkill in many ways, but it works for the most part.
Jenna Ortega manages to keep the series grounded as our eponymous lead, she does well with this fun script and brings her own subtle touches to the character as well. She may be a little too emotionally removed at times though and the series plays better when she reveals her true feelings from time to time. And the Netflix original does have a heart to it, tenderly placing Wednesday in the middle of all this madness, yet giving her room to explore adolescent adventures on her own terms too. Don’t you fret, that quintessential Addams Family sarcasm is dotted throughout the series as well, giving the story an added jolt of energy on occasion and plenty of charm. Overall, this adaptation of the beloved franchise is a breezy affair, one that tries to bring something new to the series, whilst appealing to the masses. This angle will polarize viewers, yet it has its perks.
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