This is a spoiler-free review of Wednesday, which hits Netflix Nov 23.
In the pantheon of perfect casting, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams belongs alongside the likes of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. Netflix’s new series, Wednesday, gives Ortega a creepy and kooky playing ground that she makes her own with ease, a few bumps in the road notwithstanding.
Since it’s not quite an adaptation, sequel, or reboot of the Addams Family films or series, Wednesday largely gets to create its world on its own terms. There is plenty of homage paid to Charles Addams’ hauntingly hilarious family with a sincere love for outcasts on full display throughout.
Tim Burton (director of episodes 1-4) and legendary composer Danny Elfman continue to go together like peanut butter and jelly, but don’t expect Wednesday to be as extravagant as some of Burton’s zanier fare. It’s trite, but “creepy and kooky” really are the perfect descriptors here. There’s some delightful gore throughout the series, but there’s also a lot of fluff. It’s difficult to balance the two, but showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar manage with a decent amount of success.
Ortega’s performance as Wednesday definitely plays a major role in that success. Given the character’s apathy and generally morose disposition, it can be hard to bring believable energy to the table. However, Ortega’s ability to act with her eyes and the choice to save the few emotional moments for when they really matter make Wednesday an effective lead. At this point we expect Gwendoline Christie to be exceptional (which she is), but Joy Sunday’s Bianca Barclay and Emma Myers’ Enid Sinclair deserve honorable mentions as well.
It’s always a bummer when you’re forced to give a little bit of credibility to preemptive internet backlash, but the only performance that doesn’t work is Luis Guzmán. It’s not the look that folks were gnashing their teeth over — Guzmán and the costume department handled that just fine! However, whether it’s due to direction or the actor struggling to talk around the dentures he wears in character, he simply doesn’t meet the charisma requirements for Gomez Addams. Still, Gomez and the rest of the Addams Family are in Wednesday a pretty limited amount, so don’t worry about this pulling too much from the story.
It’s a fun, silly, and sometimes gory introduction for budding young horror fans.
What does pull from the story, however, are the characterizations of the milquetoast boys surrounding Wednesday Addams. By no fault of Hunter Doohan or Percy Hynes White, Tyler and Xavier (who the actors play respectively) are absolutely the most boring, bland, sentient pieces of soggy bread since the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Harvey Kinkle. At no point are the struggles or obsessions around these young men believable. Meanwhile, while Sunday does what she can with queen bee Bianca, her infinitely more interesting story plays on in the background while Tyler and Xavier are front and center in favor of a dull love triangle that even Wednesday has no interest being part of.
Still, Wednesday is quite the success. It’s a fun, silly, and sometimes gory introduction for budding young horror fans who are looking for a step up from Scooby-Doo. Elfman’s score is a stunner, as always, and the set design is just the right amount of over-the-top. Putting friendship first is a difficult challenge for Wednesday to master, but her relationship with new bestie Enid is believable and heartwarming (but don’t tell Wednesday that).
Netflix Spotlight: November 2022
Wednesday introduces a whole new generation to the Addams family with creepy and kooky hijinks and an incredible performance from Jenna Ortega. Some tertiary characters struggle from weak writing while more interesting players are kept on the sidelines, but it’s not enough to bog down the series too much.