Film review: The Addams Family (PG), 4.5/10
Creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky. The theme tune to Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan's computer-animated comedy, based on Charles Addams's newspaper cartoon strips and the 1960s TV series, promises plenty of tricks and treats in time for Halloween.
Unfortunately, Matt Lieberman's script is musty and soulless like the majority of the doom-laden characters, exhumed from the same plot of earth as the Hotel Transylvania franchise, which has already notched up three instalments with a fourth in production.
The Addams Family repeatedly fails to sink its fangs into the deliciously dark and disturbing tone of the source material, softening sharp edges to ensure young children aren't cowering with fear in the dark.
Vocal performances from Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac as morbid sweethearts Morticia and Gomez are lifeless and a succession of half-hearted one-liners miss their target like when the couple uncorks a barrel in the 'whine cellar' and savours some vintage wails and moans.
The design of the film's chief antagonist - a snarling bully with bouffant blonde hair, prone to xenophobic and divisive tirades on social media - bears no resemblance to anyone living, embalmed or reanimated. Clearly.
Gomez Addams (Isaac) marries sweetheart Morticia (Theron) in front of dearly beloathed family and friends including Grandma (Bette Midler) and Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg).
The ceremony is interrupted by pitchfork-wielding villagers and the newlyweds flee on the back of Gomez's brother Fester (Nick Kroll) in search of a sanctuary that 'no one in their right mind would be caught dead in'.
An abandoned insane asylum in New Jersey, shrouded by swirling mists from nearby marshland, becomes the Addams' family home and the couple raises a ghoulish daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and explosives-obsessed son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard).
Interior design doyenne Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) chooses a plot of land down in the valley to build the picture-perfect community of Assimilation as a backdrop to her new reality TV series.
She drains the marshland during her makeover, revealing the eyesore of the ramshackle Addams estate on the hill.
Margaux stages a forceful intervention to compel Gomez, Morticia et al to embrace pastel shades or suffer her wrath.
Meanwhile, Wednesday forges an unlikely friendship with Margaux's neglected daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher) and Pugsley practises swordplay for the forthcoming mazurka ceremony that marks his transition from boy to man.
The Addams Family dilutes the macabre and moribund pungency of the cartoon strips, delivering heavy-handed sermons about individuality and tolerance in an era of angry mob rule.
A supporting cast of gifted comic actors are woefully short-changed by a script that peddles sentimentality instead of spite.
Booming belly laughs are depressingly scarce, except for an amusing Frankensteinian interlude with dead frogs in a school science laboratory.
Like the amphibian specimens, Vernon and Tiernan's picture briefly jolts to life.