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Jim Schembri’s new release movie reviews – Thu 05 Dec, 2019

Jim Schembri

THE ADDAMS FAMILY *** (87 minutes) PG

There’s plenty of fun to be had with this snappy animated retread of The Addams Family, that gaggle of lovably ghoulish individuals whose weird ways encounter resistance in a 21st century Middle American designer town.

Family patriarch Gomez (voiced by Oscar Isaac), his worshipped wife Morticia (Charlize Theron), their son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), Grandmama (Bette Midler), Fester (Nick Kroll), Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg), the ever-helpful Thing and, of course, their lugubrious butler Lurch (Conrad Vernon, a co-director) settle into a new home after being hounded out of their old one by unwelcoming ratepayers.

As Pugsley prepares for an important ritual the family is targeted by big-haired TV presenter Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) whose plans to sell the catalogue-pretty homes in her town of Assimilation are endangered by the value-depressing Gothic presence of the Addams mansion, which sits atop a hill overlooking the place. (Why she never noticed the house beforehand is not explained.)

While she schemes to makeover the house, the gorgeously taciturn Wednesday joins the local high school, making friends with Parker (Elsie Fisher), the unfortunate, put-upon daughter of Margaux.

In the film’s most interesting story strand, Wednesday faces down a bully who is harassing Parker. Having had so little social contact with other children and being a strong-willed girl, she demonstrates how the only thing that gives a bully power is fear. Show them no fear and you can take them down. What a gal.

Harking back to the classic 1960s Addams Family TV series (based on the cartoon strip by Charles Addams), and the two theatrical films The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), the Addams family have always served as a comic metaphor for suburban eccentricity.

That light-hearted questioning of what normal is drives this spright little hit film – made for a mere $US24 million (peanuts in the world of digital animation) it has already taken $180m globally – with Wednesday emerging (as in the other films and TV show) as the most interesting and relatable character.

Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon do lean on the standard “be yourself and don’t conform” messaging a little heavily – did they really have to call the sameness-loving theme town Assimilation? – but there are enough confrontations and spook-based visual gags to make it an enjoyable, disposable jaunt with a timely and positive message about how best to shut down a bully.

 

ASK DR RUTH *** (100 minutes) M

Watching diminutive sex therapist and media mega-star Dr Ruth Westheimer resist the valiant attempts by her daughters to admit she is a feminist is just one of the joys in this very entertaining insight into her remarkable life.

Cutting between the joyful frenzy of her present-day schedule and archival footage, the film takes a few sombre turns as it details her formative experiences escaping the Holocaust and her search to officially find out what happened to her family.

Ruth’s rise as a media star offers an amusing lesson in “under the radar” radio programming, her subsequent fame and associated riches failing to distract the tireless nonagenarian from her core mission to advise and enlighten as many people as possible, and by any medium necessary.

 

Jim Schembri
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