Tim Burton’s Wednesday Is Drawing Mixed Reviews, But There’s One Thing About The Addams Family Spinoff That Critics Agree On

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday.
(Image credit: Netflix)

There’s a reason the Addams Family characters have stood the test of time for the better part of a century. In their best iterations, the creepy, kooky family members are a delightful mix of macabre and absurdity, and therefore it seems like a no-brainer that Tim Burton would try his hand at a new rendition. The upcoming Netflix series Wednesday is the result, with Burton helming the first four episodes and executive producing the spinoff that stars Jenna Ortega as the titular goth teenager. Reviews are in for Wednesday ahead of its November release to Netflix, and while overall reviews are mixed, they all seem to agree on the series’ lead actress.

Wednesday will see Jenna Ortega’s character going away to school at the Nevermore Academy, navigating the struggles of being a teenager and figuring out her newly-formed psychic abilities. Oh yeah, and someone’s on a killing spree. The Scream actress will be joined by Catherine Zeta-Jones as mom Morticia, plus Luis Guzmán as Gomez, and Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester. Also, Christina Ricci will appear, appeasing fans of the classic '90s movies in which she starred.

So what do critics have to say after streaming the eight-episode series? Daniel Fienberg of THR says Jenna Ortega has no trouble making the classic character her own, and she proves her star power: 

Thanks to Ortega’s wildly entertaining blur of arch broadness and subtlety, plus creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar’s refusal to over-explain or over-evolve the eternally nihilistic goth favorite, Wednesday gets to come into her own here. Though the overall series is rarely quite at its leading lady’s level — adjust your expectations for more of an above-average CW dramedy — there are enough promising elements that I hope Wednesday gets the opportunity to make a second season with some refinements.

Amelia Emberwing of IGN agrees that Jenna Ortega elevates the series with her performance, making a great option for young, budding horror fans. The critic rates the series a “Good” 7 out of 10, saying: 

Wednesday introduces a whole new generation to the Addams family with creepy and kooky hijinks and an incredible performance from Jenna Ortega. Some tertiary characters struggle from weak writing while more interesting players are kept on the sidelines, but it’s not enough to bog down the series too much.

Dan Jolin of Empire gives the series 3 stars out of 5, saying that despite its flaws Jenna Ortega makes Wednesday “extremely watchable,” and is able to pull off a feat Christina Ricci never had to when she played the character. In the critic’s words: 

Ortega meets a far greater challenge than her predecessor ever faced: preserving the now-teenage Wednesday’s barbed demeanour over an eight-episode arc, while also allowing her to develop, just a little, as a person. She has to evolve enough for us to keep caring and not dismiss her as one-note, while never betraying Wednesday’s darkly precious sociopathy and succumbing to (ugh) growth. And Ortega pulls it off with grave-faced aplomb. It’s a mini masterclass in less-is-more performance.

Even the critics who struggle to find the entertainment value in Wednesday seem to appreciate the star’s contribution. Ben Travers of IndieWire grades the series a C- but still notes (mostly) good casting, including the “sharpened range” that Jenna Ortega shows with her traditionally emotionless character. Overall, however: 

Little about [Wednesday] is startling or unpleasant, save for her repeated asides about torturing people or enjoying a bit of terror. But when it comes to the macabre, Wednesday (and, more so, ‘Wednesday’) is all talk and little action — a well-rounded character hammered into the rectangular icon on your Netflix homescreen, by an algorithm built to conform.

Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting rates the series 2.5 out of 5 skulls, saying the series never gets mysterious or spooky enough to do justice to YA horror or to the classic characters. The actress’ portrayal of the titular character, however, is a fascinating case study of the unlikable protagonist. In the critics words: 

This version of Wednesday is outwardly callous, unfriendly, and brash. She’s quick to dismiss and mistrust those most eager for her friendship, even when they’ve proven loyal. This is a Wednesday resentful of living in her mother’s shadow and even more rueful of authority. It’s a Wednesday with no qualms about torture if it means getting what she wants. All qualities that alienate her would render other characters irredeemable. Yet Ortega injects complex pathos beneath the stoicism and dry line delivery. Wednesday may be matter-of-fact and straight-faced in demeanor, but her eyes convey her emotional truth. And the truth is that no matter how weird, abrasive, or quirky she may be, she’s an average teen girl beneath it all.

While the critics don’t seem to agree on whether or not Wednesday lives up to their expectations — the series holds a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 19 critics’ reviews — there’s little argument about what Jenna Ortega brings to the table. If you’d like to check out the series, you can do so starting Wednesday (of course), November 23, with a Netflix subscription

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.