Wednesday's child may be full of woe, but there's also a begrudgingly softer side to the titular character that surfaces every now and again.
Weird is the new normal in the Netflix series inspired by the most macabre family in pop culture. 'Wednesday', from the mind of Tim Burton, follows the 15-year-old lover of all things dark and dreary (played by Jenna Ortega) as she settles into her new life at Nevermore Academy, sent there for teaching her former classmates a bitey lesson. Originally attended by her parents Morticia and Gomez (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán) in the early '90s, the boarding school is home to all sorts of gifted - and not-so-gifted - youngsters and a fierce principal with a watchful eye (Gwendoline Christie). But there's a killer monster on the loose in town, and when one of her classmates becomes victim to its claws, Wednesday finds herself wrapped up in a murder/mystery that could have ties to her sickeningly enamoured parents.
If it weren't for the success of those '90s movies, we might never have seen the Addams family ever again. 'The Addams Family' and 'Addams Family Values' are such pillars of our upbringing that we hold the franchise dear to our hearts. And so, when Netflix revealed they were reviving the franchise from the brink of extinction, there was a certain level of hesitation surrounding it. On the whole, however, 'Wednesday' is a fun mystery adventure with a familiar anti-hero at its centre who has been given a few new tricks since we last saw her.
We learn that Nevermore Academy is more than just a school for the gifted - it's more in line with Hogwarts or the X Mansion - with teenagers of different abilities living in somewhat harmony until Wednesday Addams passes its threshold to shake things up. Wednesday begins to have dark, unsightly visions at random moments - and along with her pal Thing, the pair work together to crack the case wide open. Not everything goes to plan, but with the endless quips and dry humour coming from the mouth of the titular character, it's a journey that captivates because of the juxtaposition of it all.
Following the initial trailer release by Netflix earlier this year, we were unsure of Jenna Ortega's ability to tackle this oddball character who is so beloved by fans, and who was iconically played by Christina Ricci in the '90s films (and who also appears in this series too). She seemed a little robotic delivering her lines, rather than a convincing gloomy teenager. All worries quickly evaporate, however, as the opening scene of the series plays out. Her unblinking and wide-eyed nature, fuelled by her ability to drop a verbal slap to the face to her victims without so much as a wry smile or change of expression needs to be commended. She's up for TV anti-hero of the year if you ask us.
There are some patchy performances present, however. Maybe it's because they're guest stars and not fully-fledged main roles in the series, but Luis Guzmán and Catherine Zeta-Jones' performances as Gomez and Morticia are as flat as the wigs they are wearing. Zeta-Jones begins to warm up to the role later in the series by delivering a more weighty, emotional performance, but when paired up with Guzmán, everything feels off. We're not buying that these two share an undying love for one another.
Gwendoline Christie is fabulous as the watchful Nevermore principal, while the majority of the young actors (especially Wednesday's roommate Enid, played by Emma Myers) are able to hold their own in a series that is sprawling with secondary characters. OG Wednesday actor Christina Ricci also guest stars as a Nevermore teacher, and it's humbling to see her character and Wednesday share an unspoken bond, no doubt a nod to the fans watching at home.
A genius character trait of Wednesday's is that she refuses "to be a slave to technology," meaning that she doesn't know how to use a mobile phone or laptop, instead preferring to use her typewriter as her means of written communication. It's this sort of nuance, as well as her just being plain weird, that makes Wednesday the most captivating presence in the series. She keeps us on our toes while watching, as just when you think she's about to change into someone who gives a flying f*ck about your personal struggle, she'll drop the iciest retort possible. But this is a coming-of-age story, so expect some subtle changes from her over the course of the series.
The world that Tim Burton has created here is one that feels like a natural progression of the YA genre. Now that 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' has come to its hideous end, expect 'Wednesday' to slot into that category with (un)ease. Hopefully, this series, which we presume will get a couple more seasons out of it at least, won't fall off the waste side as much as 'CAOS' did. We can't wait to see more of Wednesday, and we bet newcomers and longtime fans of the series will feel the same.
A fun romp with the Addams family name attached to it, paired with strong lead performances and a somewhat interesting storyline, 'Wednesday' is kooky and spooky enough to earn itself a top spot place in the growing number of takes on this delightfully deranged family. Plus, there are enough *snap snap* easter eggs included along the way that will keep fans ticking over.
'Wednesday' hits Netflix this Wednesday, November 23.