The Addams Family is back at it again with Netflix’s teen series Wednesday, this time with Tim Burton at the helm.
The series dropped on November 23 and, while it’s received mixed reviews from critics, has gotten almost nothing but praise from fans, who eagerly devoured the eight-episode season.
Wednesday was certainly poised for success. The all-star cast includes Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia, Luis Guzman as Gomez, Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester, and rising star Jenna Ortega as the titular character Wednesday Addams.
But not even a stacked cast is enough to save Wednesday from the show’s utterly dull script and Tim Burton’s poor directorial choices.
It’s surprising that Burton hasn’t attempted to tackle The Addams Family before now. The famously macabre family seems right up the director’s alley (although it’s worth noting that he was originally attached to the 1991 Addams Family film before being replaced).
Burton typically excels in his original creations (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Birde), but his remakes almost always fail to live up to the originals (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), a curse that Wednesday ultimately suffers from.
Burton’s direction, particularly when it comes to Jenna Ortega, is bizarre at best (and not in a good way). He mistakes deadpan for dull — a rookie mistake — and goes out of his way to strip Wednesday of any charm, wit, or personality whatsoever.
But while the directing isn’t great, it’s the writing that really does the show in. The script feels utterly contrived, particularly when it comes to Wednesday’s lines. It’s as if Tim Burton’s team has never met a teenager in real life.
It’s unfortunate that Burton has wasted such a wonderful opportunity. Jenna Ortega more than proved her acting chops in the second season of You as Joe’s neighbor Ellie Alves. And she certainly looks the part — her costuming, hair, and makeup are all on-point.
And yet, watching Ortega try to make her way through each scene is painful, save for the now-viral dance scene. You can see Ortega straining to deliver each monotone line with sincerity. In a show where we should be fully immersed in fantasy, we’re instead stuck with an acting 101 class without enough plot to distract us.
Given Ortega’s past performances, the only explanation for her lackluster rendition of Wednesday is the writing and direction, both of which gave the 20-year-old actress little to work with.
Not to mention that Ortega already had the difficult task of following in Christina Ricci’s footsteps. The actress essentially redefined Wednesday Addams in the 1991 live-action film, The Addams Family.
For an entire generation, Ricci *was* Wednesday Addams. She took Lisa Loring’s version of Wednesday in the original 1964 series and made her darker, wittier, and smarter. Needless to say, Ricci’s Wednesday is a tough act to follow and Burton didn’t do much to help Ortega succeed.
That said, fans have already fallen in love with the series (even if it does look like a Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ripoff) and Wednesday has quickly shot to #1 on Netflix’s Top 10 chart where it will most likely remain for the next week or so.
Viewers are even already urging Netflix to renew the series. But considering the streaming giant has made a habit of canceling seemingly popular shows, a season 2 isn’t a given.
As for fans who watched Wednesday only to find themselves pining for Christina Ricci’s version, they can find her movies The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993) streaming on Netflix as well.
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