REVIEW: Ortega and the Addams shine in otherwise dreadful Wednesday

You know the song and you know the schtick, even if you’re like me and haven’t actually seen them in anything before now. The Addams family, iconic devotees of the macabre and morbid, have been staples of American pop culture for a shocking 85 years, inspiring generations of goths and many a zany fictional family in their ghastly wake. 

After being together for so long it is only natural for one to step away from their creepy clan now and then, which is what Wednesday Addams reluctantly does when she is forced to attend Nevermore Academy in the aptly titled Wednesday

As I said, I am no aficionado of the menacing ménage, but I am pretty certain that the quality and, more importantly, the tone of Netflix’s new show is more than worthy of its hellish heritage.  

Jenna Ortega steps into the pigtails of Wednesday, and her performance is simply dreadful. I mean this, of course, in the way that Wednesday would use the word: To describe something exceptional and wonderful. She is fun to watch in a way that very few characters and actors are in any type of medium, consistently outshining (far from literally, of course) everyone and everything in her orbit (with the possible exception of Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia, who is not in the show much but is equally as fantastic in every scene she is in). 

And who better to direct proceedings than Tim Burton, a man who has consistently proven to be the closest thing we have to an actual member of the Addams family in this realm? Burton’s dour demeanor fits the world of Wednesday like a snug noose on a witch’s neck, and his deft directing elevates the tale beyond what it would have been otherwise. 

As equally as important to the show’s success is Danny Elfman, Burton’s joined-at-the-hip blood brother, who provides a predictably delicious soundtrack.  

Incredible performances of the Addamses aside, the story of Wednesday isn’t really all that special. Without its leads, director and soundtrack the show would feel more akin to one of those dime-a-dozen made-for-teens dramas that the CW airs, albeit one of the better ones. 

The supporting characters are fine and the actors who portray them are good, but I couldn’t care less about any of them when they were doing things independently of Wednesday, and my mind would consistently wander whenever the show got into love-triangle territory. 

I could also never figure out just what the actual world of Wednesday was supposed to be; at first I thought the Addams family was truly an anomaly in a relatively normal version of reality, but then some people appear claiming to be werewolves. Later I realize they really are werewolves, but they exist under the radar of regular humans. Oh wait, nope, regular humans are fully aware of them and distrust them. Trying to figure out the basic setting of Wednesday was really quite distracting. 

But these things don’t matter much to me whenever Ortega as Wednesday was on screen. Everything else about the show could have been complete trash and I would still come back to watch her for another season. The Addams family is in good hands, if Thing will forgive the turn of phrase.

Wednesday season 1 is now available on Netflix.