- The eight-part series from director Burton and writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, which premiered Wednesday
- Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for violence, fear and coarse language)
- How to watch: Netflix
She is unsettling, strange, and eerie. She is the gloomy, dead-eyed daughter of the Addams family. In Tim Burton’s cheerfully macabre Netflix series “Wednesday,” she is now enrolled in boarding school.
Wednesday’s opener of the eight-part series from director Burton and writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar is filled with hilarious caskets when Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is booted from Nancy Reagan High, her eleventh school in five years. She did nothing more than release piranhas into a swimming pool with jocks who had harassed her younger brother, Pugsley.
Her mother, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and father, Gomez (Luis Guzmán), attended Nevermore Academy. Its curriculum is geared for outcasts, creeps, and monsters, and its student body is comprised of vampire, werewolf, and siren cliques. However, even they are disturbed by Wednesday’s cadaver-white skin and all-black attire.
“Wednesday usually appears half-dead,” Gomez explains. “Excuse me on Wednesday. She is allergic to color, Morticia continues. On Wednesday, the oddly upbeat principal of the school, Weems (Gwendoline Christie), will not take it easy.
Ortega kills as the talented, nihilistic adolescent who would prefer hang out in a tomb than a bar. Her flat affectation and total contempt for her peers characterize Wednesday. Her spasmodic, zombie-like dance routines at the school dance to the tune of “Goo Goo Muck” by the Cramps create one of the most memorable television moments of the year.
The villainous protagonist is vicious, fearless, and full of incredibly caustic one-liners. When describing her visions, the little storm cloud adds, “They come on suddenly and feel like electroshock therapy, but without the pleasurable afterburn.” She lacks an Instagram or TikTok account because “social media is a soul-sucking wasteland of useless affirmation” Wednesday makes it apparent that she is not interested in “tribal adolescent tropes” when her horrifically cheerful new roommate Enid (Emma Myers) gives her a tour of the school’s social scene.
(By the conclusion of the series, you will adore Myers’ acting and character.) Wednesday employs her inherent mistrust of humanity when a mystery entity with ties to the school begins murdering kids and residents of the surrounding area. Similar to a gothic Nancy Drew, she uses deduction and the occasional torture session to solve the problem.
Ms. Thornhill, played by Christina Ricci in “The Addams Family” (1991) and “Addams Family Values” (1993), is the only “normal” teacher at the academy. She lacks the transforming abilities and powers of the others. Her enthusiasm for teaching botany drew her to the school. But why exactly is she there?
In this streaming edition of the franchise, gimmicky references to the films and the 1964 TV series are sparse and employed deliberately. Two finger taps unlock the entrance to a secret society’s hideout, and Lurch’s catchphrase, “You rang?,” only appears once and at the appropriate moment.
Due to the wonder of CGI, Thing, the disembodied hand that has been restrained in previous “Addams Family” productions, now roams freely. It’s Watson to Wednesday’s Sherlock, and Thing’s feelings of embarrassment, panic, and despair are portrayed with vigor.
When Wednesday discovers Thing hidden in her dorm room on the first day of school, she interrogates it. “Didn’t Mother and Father send you to spy on me?” He indicates “no” by waving a finger. She cautions, “I’m not above shattering a few fingers.” Thing trembles, then explains in sign language that it’s for her own benefit. She says mockingly, “Oh, Thing, you poor, naive appendage.”
Burton’s sensibility and style permeate this wonderfully eccentric and satirical murder mystery. Nevermore Academy is adorned with gargoyles and spires, whilst the small ancient town of Jericho outside attracts tourists with a tacky recreation of a Pilgrim village. The combination of witch-burning artifacts and kitsch fudge vendors is a playground for Burton.
It is always risky to tamper with a cherished pop culture icon like “The Addams Family,” but “Wednesday” is fantastic on every level. Its namesake is not concerned about her reputation being tarnished.
She would never care what we thought.