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


Although the main character’s name was inspired by the poetic line “Wednesday’s child is full of woe,” “Wednesday” is generally a treat, thanks almost entirely to Jenna Ortega. Having outgrown her Disney Channel days, Ortega turns the Addams family’s now-school-age daughter into the coolest humorless goth sociopath you’ll ever meet in a Netflix series that’s more weird than creepy or strange

Director Tim Burton sets the right visual tone — a mix of comedy and macabre that resembles “Edward Scissorhands” — as he teams up with “Smallville” producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who know a thing or two about how to create a TV show around an extraordinary teenager. . Indeed, when Wednesday enrolls at a new private school, Nevermore Academy, she tells the headmistress (Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie) about her frequent moves from school to school: “They didn’t build enough strong to hold me.”

That might change to Nevermore, a poetic name for this haven for weirdos and wizards, with a supernatural atmosphere that’s as much Hogwarts (or X-Men) as it is Charles Addams’ comic strip.

Not only does Wednesday have to deal with emerging psychic abilities and the strange visions that accompany them, but a mystery emerges that turns the suspicious girl into a moody, ebony-clad Nancy Drew trying to figure out who she is the person in charge when the tracks start. back to your own family tree.

It’s obviously a pretty derivative mix of genre elements, but the mix works in part because even the smallest ingredients are tasty, from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman as Wednesday’s parents, Morticia and Gomez, to to her companion Thing, who gets a dress she wants using – what else? – a “five finger discount”. The writers get a lot of comedic mileage out of this limb, so give them a hand.

What separates “Wednesday” from similar efforts (Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comes to mind) is ultimately Ortega, who somehow manages to be relentlessly weird, a portrayal of an intensity without twinkling and strangely endearing at the same time. When the character description includes never raising her voice or cracking even a smile, that’s no small feat.

Throw in clever touches like having Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the ’90s movies, as part of the school staff, and the local sheriff (Jamie McShane) dismissing Wednesday and her classmates as “the Scooby Gang,” and the series works on multiple levels.

Perhaps inevitably, “Wednesday” can’t sustain its initial kick as the serialized story unfolds over eight episodes and the finale becomes too chaotic. Again, this isn’t a surprise given the nature of the source material designed more for little jokes than a big story.

Trying to bring something new to a property like The Addams Family, which has been done so many times before, isn’t easy without altering its DNA. To its credit, “Wednesday” rises to the challenge and, above all, manages to make it seem like a snap.

“Wednesday” premieres Nov. 23 on Netflix.

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