It's a deadpan Jenna Ortega in the latest theatrical spin-off for an Addams Family teen, navigating friends and mysteries at boarding school.

Wednesday Addams is not a hugger, is allergic to colour and is expelled from Nancy Reagan High in the new Netflix comedy, aptly titled Wednesday.

Jenna Ortega (Jane the Virgin, Stuck in the Middle, The Fallout) landed the title role in the new 8 part series, half of which is directed by visionary Tim Burton.

While feature films, sitcoms and musicals have been led by macabre parents Gomez & Morticia, here the focus swings to a teen fantasy with lashings of gothic, supernatural and droll humour.

None other than Catherine Zeta-Jones undertakes the role of Morticia, the constant bad apple of Gomez’s (Luis Guzmán’s) eye, but they are largely supporting players in this new take, based at Nevermore Academy. This school for outcasts is a veritable Monster High, with teen vampires, werewolves, sirens and more.

School Principal Larissa Weems is the towering Gwendoline Christie, who relishes her control from behind her desk and proves more than a little peeved when she isn’t across all the school gossip. Ms. Weems was also a classmate of Morticia’s many full moons ago, and oversees the mandatory therapy Wednesday must undertake regularly with Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome).

No matter how much Wednesday protests her new school, and rooming with colourful teen werewolf Enid (Emma Myers), resistance is futile. While daughter may have a strained relationship with her mother, her father assigns the body-less Thing to keep an eye finger on her.

Yet while our po-faced anti-hero sneers at everything in her path, she is also subjected to sudden visions which manifest in the most delightfully lurid way, in the form of psychic premonitions. Likening them to electric shock therapy, these are also one of her more interesting attributes.

At Nevermore Academy Wednesday doesn’t make friends easily, and Burton bestows all kinds of spooky schoolyard theatrics, for which the production designers have run amok, with music by Danny Elfman.

It isn’t until she meets local teen barista Tyler (Hunter Doohan) that she finds a pal, who just happens to be the son of the local sheriff (Jamie McShane).

All this set-up is ghostly fun but needs a plot to drive its one hour episodic running time. This comes in the form of a dark backstory surrounding her parents and a local monster killing townsfolk in the woods which in turn tips Wednesday into a teen detective.

If Riverdale turned the Archie Comics into a horror crime, then Wednesday similarly pivots into a kind of St. Trinians with a demonic  side.

Jenna Ortega is suitably deadpan behind her cold exterior (brother Pugsley and Lurch are mere cameos in early episodes) and Gwendoline Christie is worlds apart from her Game of Thrones action role. There’s a nice nod to the past with Christina Ricci, having played the feature film role of Wednesday now as teacher Miss Thornhill.

Yet somehow it all feels like it is not pitching itself beyond a teen audience, which is a little surprising. Maybe later episodes will draw more upon the delights of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán, along with Fred Armisen who will appear as Uncle Fester.

That said, there’s plenty of visual eye candy from Burton to keep the colour and movement rolling.

Wednesday screens Wednesday on Netflix.

3 Responses

  1. I have only just begun watching Netflix’s Wednesday and although I cant say I was ever an Addams Family fan this new production is good fun, especially ‘The Thing’ which is almost the star of the show. The first four episodes of the series were directed by Tim Burton and his quirky Gothic film making experience really push started this show, a lesser film maker may not have gained the same result.
    Jenna Ortega was an excellent choice for the main Wednesday Addams role, ably supported by a good cast, however, for me it was good to see Gwendoline Christie getting some limelight at last as an actor, she has been deserving some better roles since the end of GoT. and we cant forget Catherine Zeta-Jones or Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 1991 movie. Even though this show is an MGM production I would be surprised if Wednesday does not get renewed.

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