‘Wednesday’ review: Jenna Ortega makes Netflix’s Addams Family series look like a snap



While the main character’s name is inspired by the poetic phrase “Wednesday’s child is full of woe,” “Wednesday” is generally a delight, owed almost entirely to Jenna Ortega. Ortega has outgrown her Disney Channel days and is turning the daughter of the Addams Family who is now in high school into the coolest humorless goth sociopath you’ll ever meet, in a Netflix series that’s more goofy than spooky or creepy .

Director Tim Burton sets just the right visual tone – a mix of comedic and macabre similar to “Edward Scissorhands” – as he teams up with “Smallville” producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who know a thing or two about building a TV show about an extraordinary teenager. Indeed, when Wednesday is enrolled in a new private school, Nevermore Academy, she tells the headmistress (“Game of Thrones'” Gwendoline Christie) of her frequent moves from school to school: “They haven’t built one strong enough to hold me.” hold.” .”

That might change at Nevermore, a poetic name for this haven for weirdos and witches, with a supernatural vibe that’s as much Hogwarts (or X-Men) as Charles Addams’ signature comic.

Not only does Wednesday deal with emerging psychic abilities and the strange visions that come with them, but a mystery emerges that turns the suspicious girl into a crabby, ebony-clad Nancy Drew, who tries to determine who is responsible as the clues begin. to go back to her own family tree.

It’s obviously a rather derivative mashup of genre elements, but the mix works in part because even the smaller ingredients are tasty, from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman as Wednesday’s parents, Morticia and Gomez, to her sidekick Thing, who is a dress she wants by hiring – what else? – a “five-finger discount”. The writers get a lot of comedic mileage out of that extremity, so lend them a hand.

Ultimately, what separates “Wednesday” from similar endeavors (Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comes to mind) is Ortega, who somehow manages to be relentlessly strange, a portrait in unblinking intensity and strangely endearing at the same time. If the character description includes never raising your voice or even hinting at a smile, it’s no mean feat.

Add in some nifty touches like Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the ’90s movies, as part of the school staff, and the local sheriff (Jamie McShane) who dismisses Wednesday and her classmates as “the Scooby gang.” ‘, and the series runs on multiple levels.

It’s perhaps inevitable that “Wednesday” doesn’t hold up to its initial kick as the serialized story unfolds over eight episodes and the ending gets too chaotic. Then again, that’s hardly a surprise given the nature of source material designed more for small jokes than for a big, compelling story.

Trying to bring something new, a property like the Addams Family, which has been done so many times before, is not easy without changing the DNA. To his credit, “Wednesday” rises to the challenge and usually manages to make it look like a piece of cake.

“Wednesday” premieres on Netflix on November 23.

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