Review of Wandinha - Tim Burton brings the Addams Family back to center stage. Did the Netflix series convince us in the blink of an eye? 

Good news for all lovers of the weird and macabre, the master of the genre returns to our screens. While he seemed to have - as he himself admits - lost his soul at Disney, the director returns to his first love with the free adaptation of the Addams Family comics. On Netflix, he stages the new adventures of young Wandinha.

Review Wandinha
Image: Netflix - Reproduction

Review of Wandinha directed by Tim Burton

Expelled from her school after an incident involving piranhas and a gang of jocks, Wandinha is admitted to the prestigious Nevermore Academy. While she tries to make a place for herself at this school for extraordinary people, a series of murders terrorizes the small town. Wandinha will investigate this case while uncovering terrible family secrets.

Tim Burton's specialties

Tim Burton likes curious animals, there's no denying that. The director of Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow puts them on stage like nobody's business, and he seemed perfectly suited to take an interest in the adventures of young Wandinha Addams. The announcement of his involvement therefore went a long way to putting the spotlight on the project. But Netflix outdoes itself on the flipside, you don't attack a pop culture moment without paying the price if it fails.

Let's just say, the bet was largely won for the platform. Everything in this series reminds us of the filmmaker's best moments. We find all the themes that are dear to him, starting with the non-conformism that permeates almost all of his filmography.

With his legendary cynicism, Burton has fun supporting the comic breaks in the story to bring out the satire of modern America. If he is less sharp than in his early days, the filmmaker tinges the first four episodes with some of the most effective macabre humor. Mercredi is then imposed as a timid appeal, an ode to difference that will resonate with all the teenagers in search of identity, but also with the young adults who will be watching the series.

Series details

He also builds his atmosphere with great ingenuity, finding in certain details an opportunity to compliment the strangeness of certain characters. Swarming, the production is a sumptuous dark image that Burton shocks. Blooming in shades of gray and sordid decors, the filmmaker has fun with this visual universe. A scene at a ball finally convinces us that the father of Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish has regained some of his brio.

The staging pays homage to this dimension in various ways. In its lighting, in its framing, we find some of the details that mark out the director. If the whole thing isn't brought to a climax, we have fun discovering this anachronistic and gothic atmosphere. The beast that will give Wandinha a hard time couldn't have come from any other mind than his.

Note that he is not in production for all the episodes and that he leaves his place to other directors from the fifth chapter onwards. It's a smooth change, and the soul of Mercredi is not sacrificed. Tim Burton is still in production and keeping an eye on the grain.

Teenage clichés

At the helm, Netflix has recruited two scriptwriters more accustomed to series of this genre. It's Alfred Gough and Miles Millar who are writing these first adventures on the small screen. It's not the first time the co-creators have teamed up, having already explored Superman's early years with Smallville in the early 2000s. Here, they paint a more poignant picture of adolescence. Through the character Wandinha (Wednesday), they address the transition to adulthood and the difficulty of breaking free from family heritage. The rejection of family patterns is also what guides this production.

Around the character played by Jenna Ortega, a whole gallery of young protagonists also develops, with their doubts. However, the subplots are not all of the same content and some tend to weigh down the series. They mainly serve to sharpen the criticism of an excessively standardized society, without always managing to break free from the clichés of the genre. By trying too hard to denounce the lack of uniqueness in our world, the series begins to lose a little of what it has. This is particularly the case when it comes to the investigation.

Still central to this first season, this monstrous mystery game has accumulated predictable twists and turns. We've had the chance to discover seven of the eight episodes of this first season and we have to admit that the series largely embraces its adolescent dimension and doesn't exactly nurture the desire to hatch an unbearable thriller. Nevertheless, it's at the top of its game, especially for Netflix, which usually misses out on its forays into the genre.

Psychotic killer

In viewers' imaginations, Wandinha Addams is often associated with Christina Ricci. The actress impressed with her performance in Barry Sonnenfeld's feature film. The actress having grown well since its release in 1991, it was necessary to find a replacement for her. Jenna Ortega was chosen by Burton and the designers. And a big well done to them, because it's just perfect.

Inexpressive, cruel and inept in her social relationships, this new Wandinha shows herself in her best light, or at least the most faithful to the mythology of the character. At just 20 years old, Jenna Ortega proves that no score can stand up to her. She shines with her phlegm, her spicy tone and her way of saying so much with her gaze. She gives substance to a fascinating and captivating heroine, who strings together hard-hitting answers but finds an unprecedented density as the conclusion draws near.

Unfortunately, she is sometimes surrounded by young actors and actresses who lack nuance. This is particularly the case on the side of the "thick brutes", who delight in the reworked diagrams of high school productions. The cheerful Emmy Myers, who plays Wandinha's eccentric roommate, makes the perfect counterpoint to the melancholy teenager who shares her room. On the adult side, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman, who respectively play Morticia and Gomez Addams, are a little behind. However, they come out with honors.

Dance of death

We'll end with the music, conceived by none other than Danny Elfman. The composer has repeatedly put all his talent at the service of Tim Burton. We owe him the iconic original music for Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. 

With Wandinha, he punctuates the series with mischief. The score is omnipresent and contributes to the atmosphere of the project. Elfman delights in this dark universe and explores it with great ease. We particularly like the main theme, as well as the cello cover of "Paint it Black".

Taking on a pop culture monument was quite a gamble for Netflix. The platform seems to have recruited the right artisans to launch this teen series with gothic and murderous accents. If the stakes probably aren't as high as you'd expect, the first season of Wandinha turns out to be effective entertainment from a new teen icon. Too bad she didn't show up in time for our Halloween marathon.

See also: Review of the movie The Woman King

November 26, 2022