It’s slightly late for Halloween, however Netflix’s new spin on the Addams Household franchise, Wednesday, continues to be a welcome sight. Armed with the backing of Tim Burton and a killer trailer, Wednesday — premiering, when else, subsequent Wednesday, Nov. 23 on the streamer — seems like a worthy extension of the basic creepy household. However based mostly on the 4 episodes I’ve seen, a doubtlessly enjoyable spinoff has been given the Riverdale therapy, shoving the Addams Household characters right into a supernatural teen drama that’d be extra at residence on The CW or Freeform. It does have a correctly macabre tone and a improbable lead efficiency from Jenna Ortega, however the option to go full YA, I’m afraid, may need been a deadly mistake.
After we meet Wednesday Addams, performed right here by Ortega, she’s a scholar at squeaky-clean Nancy Reagan Excessive College… and no, she doesn’t slot in there. (To precise revenge on some water polo bullies, she drops a bunch of piranhas within the college’s pool.) So Wednesday will get despatched away to Nevermore Academy, a non-public college for outcasts the place her mother and father Gomez and Morticia as soon as attended. The brand new college is brimming with supernatural freaks, from werewolves and vampires to sirens and gorgons — however one way or the other, Wednesday nonetheless stands out because the morbid, death-obsessed weirdo. The varsity has loads of secrets and techniques hidden inside its partitions, although, beginning with the mysterious killer within the woods that’s been tearing hapless victims to shreds.
Wednesday does have a pointy chew to it, capturing the Gothic appeal of the Addams Household films. Ortega is terrific as Wednesday, almost equaling the deadpan perfection of Christina Ricci along with her deliciously darkish one-liners. (“Sartre stated hell is different folks. He was my first crush.”) Catherine Zeta-Jones can also be exquisitely well-cast as Morticia, however Luis Guzman doesn’t actually work as Gomez — and that doesn’t matter all that a lot anyway, as a result of the remainder of the Addams household are restricted to mere cameos, apart from disembodied hand Factor. That is Wednesday’s present, and the remainder of the characters don’t fairly measure up, though Gwendoline Christie (Sport of Thrones) clearly understands the project as the varsity’s meddlesome Principal Weems. Ricci herself pops up as dorm mother Marilyn Thornhill, which is a cute little bit of stunt casting, however she isn’t given a lot to do.
The tone and visible type of Wednesday are completely on level, with Burton — who serves as govt producer and directs the pilot — bringing his trademark ghoulish glee to the undertaking. However the storytelling from Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) lags nicely behind. The plot is cluttered and chaotic, with mysteries piled on high of mysteries. We now have Wednesday planning to flee the varsity, plus her newfound psychic visions, plus the aforementioned mutilated corpses, plus a number of interchangeable floppy-haired love pursuits, plus Weems’ bizarre grudge in opposition to Morticia… it borders on overkill, as fantastic as that phrase would possibly sound to Wednesday. (She additionally has superhuman fight abilities one way or the other, which… OK.) Plus, the present makes an attempt to deliver a depth to the character of Wednesday Addams… that I’m unsure we wish? As a aspect character with pithy punchlines, she’s excellent, however as a foremost character with an emotional arc, she’s missing. (Wednesday Addams and feelings don’t combine.)
In its construction and tone, Wednesday is definitely closest to a different Netflix drama, the late Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, however it’s lacking that present’s darkish magic. Ortega is really nice as Wednesday — she’s a star within the making — however the present slows to a crawl when she’s off-screen. In the long run, it feels much less like an Addams Household present than yet one more disappointingly acquainted YA homicide thriller making an attempt to piggyback off of well-known IP. Essentially the most damning factor I can say about Wednesday is that Wednesday Addams herself would most likely hate it.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Netflix’s Wednesday has a ghoulish tone and an outstanding lead efficiency, however the story is strictly cookie-cutter YA thriller.