Lost in Translation 433: Wednesday (2023)

Lost in Translation has touched on The Addams Family before with a look at the 1991 film starring Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, Anjelica Huston as Morticia, and Christina Ricci as Wednesday. The 1991 film wasn’t the first adaptation of the Charles Addams cartoons; there was a TV series that ran from 1964-1966 that starred John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia, and Lisa Loring as Wednesday. The Addamses are an unusual family; they live in a haunted mansion and have a twisted view on life, but they are a loving family in their own way. Gomez and Morticia are truly, deeply, madly in love with each other, a perfect match for each other. They are also proud of their children’s achievements, encouraging Wednesday and Puggsley in all their endeavours, no matter how bizarre.

Girl detectives have been a genre since detectives became a thing. While Nancy Drew is the best known, she’s just one teenaged girl in the genre. The idea is that a young woman in her teens delves into a number of cases, usually one per novel if part of a series, using her youth and her intelligence to solve a crime. Crimes can be simple heists and may include murder, depending on the target audience. The detective will find herself in peril, but she usually finds a way out on her own.

Can the two tastes – dark comedy and girl detective – mix and still have a great taste? The 2023 Netflix series, Wednesday, aims to find out. With Jenna Ortega as the title character, the series follows Wednesday Addams as she goes to the Nevermore Academy to avoid having to stand trial for attempted murder. The charges stem from the use of piranha against the school swim team after they bullied Puggsley. No one is allowed to bully Wednesday’s brother except her. Wednesday was offered a deal – charges of attempted murder or expulsion and transfer to Nevermore with court-mandated therapy sessions. Since Wednesday didn’t want anyone to think she failed at murder, she chose Nevermore.

Like any prisoner of war, Wednesday vows to escape Nevermore. The principal, Larissa Weems, played by Gwendoline Christie, has a history with Wednesday’s parents, one that’s still boiling under the surface, leading to Wednesday being paired with Enid (Emma Meyers). Wednesday and Enid are opposites; Enid is outgoing, friendly, and colourful, with rainbow hair, the perfect foil for Wednesday. Enid introduces the various cliques at Nevermore to Wednesday, the vampires, the werewolves, and the sirens. But even at a boarding school for outcasts, there are outcasts. While Wednesday is a self-imposed outcast, there are others who aren’t part of the cliques, like Eugene (Moosa Mostafa), the president and sole member of the Hummer Club for beekeepers. Even the botany teacher, Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci), is an outcast; outcast by the normal folks of Jericho for being odd and by the staff of Nevermore for being a “normie”. However, Enid, while not a mover and shaker in a clique, is on friendly terms with most of the students, with the exception of Wednesday initially.

Nevermore Academy sits on the outskirts of the town of Jericho, a town founded by pilgrims in the 17th Century. The town’s founder, Joseph Crackstone (William Houston), led the townsfolk against the supernatural outcasts, including one of Wednesday’s ancestors, Goody Addams (also played by Ortega). Goody, however, was a powerful witch, and her bloodline can have powerful visions. Wednesday begins to have said visions once she settles in at Nevermore. The mystery of the visions and the brutal killings of locals is the only thing keeping her from escaping the academy.

Wednesday’s investigations pulls her into all sorts of politics – teenaged, academic, municipal. Her court appointed therapist, Dr. Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), has her own secrets. The barista of the local coffee shop, Tyler (Hunter Doohan), is intrigued by Wednesday despite her attempts to dissuade him. Even his father, Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane), tries to discourage the budding relationship, having reasonable suspicion that Gomez had committed murder thirty years prior.

Fortunately, Wednesday isn’t alone. Her parents left Thing (Victor Dorubantu) behind to keep an eye on the girl. Wednesday easily finds him and convinces/threatens him to assist her. Thing’s help lets her get clues from places she couldn’t normally get into. He is the blunt instrument to Wednesday’s razor-sharp intellect. Both are needed, as the killer becomes killers.

The series leans heavily on the previous movies, the TV series, and the print cartoons. The method to open a secret door involves Wednesday snapping her fingers twice, much like the theme from the TV series. Wednesday’s character builds from Christina Ricci’s portrayal in the films from the 90s, dark and sardonic. Gomez and Morticia are still the most loving couple in entertainment.

Casting played a role in the adaptation. Jenna Ortega brings an intensity to Wednesday, making the character a force unto herself, a proper Addams. Luis Guzmán as Gomez looks like he stepped out of Charles Addams’ print cartoons. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia brings the characters calm demeanor as shown in all previous incarnations of The Addams Family. Together, they are a couple still in love with each other like when they met, possibly more so. Having Dorubantu portray Thing brings a physicality that a purely CGI rendering couldn’t. While Thing can’t talk, Dorubantu can get the character’s emotions known. Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester hearkens back to Jackie Coogan’s version of the character. Outside the Addamses, Emma Meyers as Enid offsets Wednesday’s darkness. The pair are set up for mutually assured destruction, but they start rubbing off on each other. Meyers could have faded beside Ortega’s portrayal of Wednesday; instead, she stands out, and becomes a key part of the show.

Could the story remain standing without The Addams Family, with Enid solving the mystery instead of Wednesday? Doubtful. The way Wednesday goes about solving the mystery relies heavily on the out-of-phase view the Addamses have on life. Enid could gain a cynical side, but then she’d not be Enid. Being an Addams explains where Wednesday’s breadth of knowledge comes, from foreign languages to deviant psychology.

Wednesday is a darkly humorous girl detective coming of age story, told from the perspective of a character whose family, while waltzing to the tune of a different harpsichordist, are still loving and accepting of whatever interests their children take, even if it is murder. The series deserves the word of mouth it received and does bring The Addams Family into today’s world without losing any of the charm that makes the Addamses interesting.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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