Thursday, October 10, 2019

Animated 'Addams' clan more kooky, than spooky; 'Lucy' rarely takes flight

An all-star cadre of voices dresses up an animated version of "The Addams Family," but the closest thing to killer about any of it all is the soundtrack, not counting "Haunted Heart," a new, but nothing-special opener co-written and performed by Christina Aguilera.

Otherwise, big butler Lurch (Conrad Fisher) becomes the music master of the piece, supposedly on the keyboards for "Green Onions," the classic organ original from Booker T & The MGs; a few chords of the "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" song; and even R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," among others. Of course, the "all-together ooky," finger-snapping theme from the live-action '60s TV comedy eventually shows up, too, in a plot that plays not unlike any cable cartoon your kids watch every day.

Main members of the nicely animated "Addams Family" are back again.
Yes, there are a few good sight gags, messages about inclusion, and one very wrong-minded idea to make young Pugsley Addams (Finn Wolfhard from "Stranger Things") an explosives expert. What? In this day and age of school violence?

Regardless, the whole gang is here -- and then some. Parental influences Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) show up early with a back story of how they got to their asylum/mansion in New Jersey (with the aforementioned Lurch in tow, by the way). Thirteen years later, it's forever-odd daughter Wednesday Addams (Chloe Grace Moretz), getting a big piece of screen time simply by attending public school for the first time.

Naturally, she takes on a school bully while befriending the somewhat-lost daughter (Elsie Fisher) of the film's villain (Allison Janney), a reality-show realtor trying to get the strange family on the hill to take a hike -- or worse.

Other familiar names lending vocals include Titus Burgess, Aimee Garcia, Jennifer Lewis, Bette Midler, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Snoop Dogg (as Cousin It).

The one -- and just about only -- real scene-stealer, however, becomes Nick Kroll, who lends perfect voice to the precisely imagined Uncle Fester with a dead-on nod to the late, great Jackie Coogan from the original series.

Rated "PG": macabre and suggestive humor, and some action; 1:29; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

The chemistry between Portman and Hamm doesn't exactly bubble over, either,
Also opening Friday, "Lucy in the Sky" flew into the 44th annual Toronto Film Festival fueled by a payload of buzz, then fell back to Earth after a less-than-sparkling world premiere without making much of a splash.

The movie likely will interact with audiences the same way, beginning with some compelling opening images of astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) all starry-eyed with wonder during a space walk, before some silly melodrama kicks in to mess up a story "inspired by true events."

Space junkies might even recall how a real astronaut went a little haywire over a jilted romance in 2007, but they won't recognize it in the way it's told by co-writer and first-time feature director Noah Hawley. That, in fact, might be the film's biggest disappoinment, since so many of us expected something extra special from the guy who created TV's always intriguing and multi-Emmy-winning "Fargo."

Instead, we get the competent Portman going ga-ga over a fellow flyer played by Jon Hamm, and when was the last time that small-screen heavyweight (especially in AMC's "Mad Men") made a really exceptional film? Ever?

Rated "R": language and some sexual content; 2:04; $ $ out of $5

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