Television and movie spinoffs and reboots are all the rage. Now the classic macabre humor of The Addams Family returns to popular entertainment with the delightful Netflix series Wednesday.
The title, of course, refers to Wednesday Addams – daughter of Morticia and Gomez Addams and sister to Pugsley.
As the title of the series suggests, in this incarnation of the Addams Family, Wednesday is the focal character. Played by the wonderfully dry yet hysterical Jenna Ortega, Wednesday Addams is a teenager who has been sent off to a boarding school for students with otherworldly abilities.
The school harbors werewolves, sirens, vampires, merpeople, psychics and other outcasts. In a playful nod to Edger Allan Poe, the school is called Nevermore Academy.
The new Wednesday Netflix series is the brainchild of iconic filmmaker Tim Burton who serves as executive producer and also directed four of the eight episodes in the first season.
Burton has a history of reinventing the way we look at classic characters. He totally reimagined the Batman character with his 1989 film starring Michael Keaton. He also retooled such classic titles as Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, and Dumbo.
Burton’s vision for Wednesday is new and exciting. Fans of the original series and the various films will enjoy this new darkly funny creation. But you don’t have to be an Addams Family aficionado to enjoy Wednesday. Appropriate for young people and adults alike, newbies will still enjoy the characters and humor.
Although Morticia, Gomez, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, and Lurch all make appearances, Thing – a self-aware human hand, is the only member of Wednesday’s family to get significant screentime. And kudos to the animatronic designers and CGI animators who bring Thing to life. He has always been a fan favorite character, and here he shines brighter than ever before.
Exiled to Nevermore Academy after trying to kill a rival student by putting piranhas in the swimming pool at her prior school, Wednesday finds herself embroiled in a mystery which she sets out to solve – sometimes in cooperation with school officials and law enforcement, but often times in defiance of their wishes.
The success of Wednesday rests on the shoulders of young Ortega. However, Ortega is no stranger to television and carries the series with ease, while also willingly sharing the spotlight with the supplemental characters when appropriate.
Those familiar with Ortega’s prior work in 2022’s Scream and X might worry she is too beautiful to pull off the deathly look of the Addams family character. But such worries would be for naught, as that the costume and makeup experts have her perfectly looking the part.
There are some cameos and supporting performances that deserve mention. Among the fellow young people involved in the mysteries at Nevermore are Percy Hynes White, Emma Myers, Joy Sunday, Hunter Doohan, and Moosa Mostafa.
While all of these young actors are strong, White really stands out as an actor. No slouch in the acting department herself, Sunday is also blessed with mesmerizing beauty. Mostafa has a nice touch as the prerequisite comic relief character, much like Dustin Diamond’s Screech from Saved by the Bell.
The Nevermore Academy staff and town folk there are several notable performers. Gwendoline Christie as Nevermore principal Larissa Weems, Riki Lindhome as Wednesday’s therapist, and Jamie McShane as the town sheriff are all in fine form.
Christina Ricci is the last actress to draw universal praise for her performance as Wednesday Addams, having been a fixture of the 1991 film The Addams Family and its 1993 sequel Addams Family Values. In a delicious bit of casting, in this incarnation Ricci plays the only non-powered (aka “normal”) teacher at Nevermore.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is a cute selection as Morticia Addams. The prerequisite formfitting floor-length dress proves Zeta-Jones is still an absolute stunner. And, of course, she is a phenomenal actress. You can tell she’s having a blast playing the gothic icon and that makes it infectious to watch. It’s a fun cameo.
Luis Guzmán cameos opposite Zeta-Jones as family patriarch Gomez Addams. Guzmán is an actor I normally really enjoy, but here he doesn’t fare very well. His Gomez lacks the refinement that actors like Raul Julia, John Astin, and Tim Curry brought to the role. To my great disappointment the normally stellar Guzmán comes across as a bit of a troll.
Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia fame makes an interesting Uncle Fester. He tries valiantly to walk the line between staying true to the traditional interpretation of the character while also leaving his own mark. He is a more apologetic Uncle Fester than we’ve seen before.
From the moment the first episode started to unfold on screen, I found myself enraptured by the world of Wednesday Addams as envisioned by Tim Burton and brought to life by Jenna Ortega.
The writing is solid, with the exception of a few awkward attempts by the script writers to sound hip. The story unfolds at a nice pace with lots of twists and turns that keep the audience guessing. The special effects are also very good.
While there might have been a natural allure to release Wednesday as a part of it’s Halloween programming, Netflix made the wise move to hold its release until the end of November. This eliminates the expiration tag on the series that might have been implied with the passing of Halloween.
I encourage you to give Wednesday a viewing. It is a fun series to be enjoyed whenever the mood strikes you. And if you are like me, you’ll probably end up binging it because it’s pretty darn addictive.
Netflix has yet to make an official announcement on if there will be a second season, but it is clearly scripted with future seasons in mind.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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This year, I had the great pleasure of appearing in the hilarious Paul Rudnick comedy I Hate Hamlet for Elgin Theatre Company in the greater Chicago area. To our great honor, I Hate Hamlet has been nominated for seven prizes in the 2022 Broadway World Chicago Theatre Awards:
- Best Direction of a Play – Regina Belt-Daniels
- Best Ensemble Performance
- Best Play
- Best Performer in a Play – Rikki Lee Travolta
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – David Gasior
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Trace Gamache
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Travis Greuel
If you want to voice your support for the Elgin Theatre Company production of I Hate Hamlet, you can cast your vote at: https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/voteregion.cfm