When I heard Rob Zombie was making a big screen adaptation of The Munsters, I, like probably everyone, thought, “Why would he make this?” Then I saw the trailer, which was quite ghastly, and I thought, “Why would he make this?” Now, I have seen the movie for myself, and I have to ask: Why would he make this? Rob Zombie’s The Munsters is a stupefyingly unfunny film that was perhaps a labor of love for Zombie. One can imagine he made this movie because he could. But just because you could doesn’t mean you should.
This could’ve been funny. Remember Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family movies from the 90’s? I imagine that’s what Zombie thought he was making. That, but in the manner of The Brady Bunch Movie, which poked fun at the original series while also celebrating it. I imagine that’s what Zombie thought he was doing. In the right hands, The Munsters could’ve been funny. It’s just in the wrong hands, completely, through and through. It’s a confounding experience where you can tell everyone probably had a good time making it. I found it interminable; unfunny, and barely even a movie, and it runs for nearly two hours.
It should be said though that, personally, I have only enjoyed one of Zombie’s movies. That was The Devil’s Rejects, because it’s the one where his grindhouse sensibilities actually paid off. The rest? I like what he’s going for, but I hate the ways he goes for them. They’re hyper-violent, oversexualized, and really just grimy and ugly. You could tell me a gorilla was in the director’s chair, and I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s a crowd for them, I’m just not it. So on one hand, I could commend him for trying something else. He’s never made an all-out comedy before, and this is quite the gear shift. But imagine a basketball player trying ballet, or a rap artist turning to country music, or a blind person trying to see. Chances are, it’s not going to go well, and The Munsters doesn’t.
So I guess this is supposed to be a Munsters origin story. Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon (who, let’s face it, couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag and can only get roles in his movies), stars as Lily, who is in search of love and is looking in all of the wrong places. Richard Brake, seen as the kidnapping, murderous rapist in last month’s Barbarian, plays a famous scientist who has just created his masterpiece, who he names Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips). Herman is of course reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, oh but he’s such a kidder! The guy has a great sense of humor- he’s such a hoot, he cracks himself up. He becomes a nationwide sensation. For Lily, it’s love at first sight, and the two meet and fall in love, much to the dismay of her father The Count (Daniel Roebuck). They sing Sonny and Cher, and buy their house. Some other things happen, and to no shock, I have already forgotten, because the movie is more or less a collection of loose, lame ideas.
There is hardly a story, and the movie runs for nearly two hours. All of this could be forgiven if the movie was funny. Honestly, I don’t believe I laughed once. It’s so flat, and when it isn’t, it’s painfully unfunny, compliments of the Phillips performance. What a fun gig he has here, and he looks the part… but good lord, when he opens his mouth, the movie just dies. The movie never comes to life in the first place, for reasons that seemed apparent from the moment this was greenlit, but when Phillips is called upon to deliver, he fails. Making matters worse is that not only are his jokes not funny, but he does this obnoxious laugh afterwards that is surely in the spirit of his successor, Fred Gwynne, but since we already don’t find him funny, we find his confidence in his humor infuriating.
I totally get what Zombie is trying to do here. From the schlocky production design and the score and the cinematography, he’s trying to capture the spirit of the original show. I get it. He’s just made a fatal mistake. Because you see, typically when people make a comedy, it helps to actually cast actors who are funny. Instead, he gathered up his torture-porn troop regulars to play a two hour game of dress-up. It doesn’t work, at all. And guys, I don’t want to hate anyone. In fact, if Zombie had pulled off a funny movie, I would’ve paid credit where it was due. Alas, he didn’t.
This was a tough sit. It’s more of an airless experience than an excruciating one, but it can certainly be that too. If he had cast just one actor with a comedic bone in their body, this might’ve achieved some sort of liftoff. Instead, it plays more like a dingy, somewhat pathetic attempt by a group of people who ultimately aren’t as funny as they think they are. The reviews for this movie have been polite, and you know, maybe I’m just a d**k who has it out for Zombie. I don’t have it out for anyone. I would just prefer my comedies to be funny, and my movies to be good. And in the case of The Munsters, it’s ultimately neither.