It’s a smart move to get older on Wednesday, now played by You’s Jenna Ortega, avoiding accusations that this is a pure remake
Considering she’s been around since 1938, it’s probably about time Wednesday Addams grew up. In Netflix’s latest reimagining of pop culture’s favorite freaky family, the world’s darkest girl has finally blossomed into a sullenly sullen teenager.
In the vein of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, this is teenage horror in the form of a classic coming-of-age story. Wednesday’s story is being moved to Nevermore Academy, the Hogwarts-like school for “outcasts, freaks and monsters,” where it unfortunately settled after its last expulsion – this time for throwing sacks full of piranhas into the swimming pool (or as the school called it). , “attempted murder”).
Getting older on Wednesday is a smart move, now played by Jenna Ortega (best known for Jane the Virgin and You), avoiding accusations that this is a pure remake. Ortega’s Wednesday is an aspiring novelist and accomplished cellist with Buffy’s martial arts skills and the scathing sarcasm of spirit worldis Enid. Otherwise, she’s less unusual than she’d like to believe. Deadpan, intense, yearning for independence and barely containing her scorn, Wednesday will be recognizable to every disaffected teen’s parent. The requisite puberty metaphor comes in the form of her emerging – and unnerving – psychic visions.
As you would expect from a production associated with Tim Burton (executive producer and director of four episodes), Wednesday looks gorgeous: the costumes, sets and special effects are all beautifully executed. Those eagerly awaiting Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia may be disappointed that she only appears in two episodes (of those available for review).
But that, too, is cleverly written: Too much time at the Addams mansion would leave audiences pining for Barry Sonnenfeld’s ’90s cult classics, rather than allowing Wednesday to establish itself as something new. Anyway, the position of High Camp Glamazon is more than fulfilled by Gwendoline Christie’s director Larissa Weems, a Hitchcock blonde with Roald Dahl villain vibes.
Though the first installment feels the closest to a retread of old ground, the series settles into a curvaceous teen detective romp as Wednesday becomes embroiled in several mysteries: a murderous beast ravaging the local forest, a seemingly resurrected college student, the fate of their 400-year-old ancestor, and whatever really happened when their parents visited Nevermore themselves.
Heavily influenced by well-crafted high school movie tropes, Wednesday’s remaining classmates initially fall into stereotypes — her insufferably optimistic werewolf roommate Enid, mean queen bee Bianca, and brooding potential love interest Xavier — but gradually gain space around themselves to develop. And despite her icy demeanor, Wednesday proves just as vulnerable to the insecurities and confusions of teenage life as her anxious classmates.
While it’s a little disconcerting to adjust to a world where all this weirdness coexists with noise-cancelling headphones and Instagram filters, the show has just enough confidence to infuse Gen Z of everything. That extends to recognizing the canon and casting Most Iconic Wednesdays herself, Christina Ricci, as the school’s botany teacher.
With a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously, a knowing wink towards the audience, some genuinely spooky passages, and an engaging and very funny central performance from Ortega that more than holds its own (although Ricci and Addams Family Values remain undefeated) , that’s a pleasure.
Wednesday herself likes the prospect of inspiring a cult following, which this show likely will, but she’d be appalled at how fun it is to watch.