The Munsters (2022)
A prequel to the 1960s television series, chronicling how Lily and Herman meet and fall in love.
Spoiler Level: Mild
featuring material written by Rickey Price.
The original Munsters television show ran on CBS from 1964 to 1966 and was a comical satire on the all-American family as it is often depicted in sitcoms of it’s day. As a satire, it was able to use comedy as a kind of mirror on the American way of life and to teach lessons that the audience may not have even been aware they were learning. In 2020, a speech made by Herman in the 1965 episode, “Eddie’s Nickname” went viral: “The lesson I want you to learn is that it doesn’t matter what you look like. Whether you are tall or short; or fat or thin; or ugly or handsome – like your father – or you can be black, or yellow, or white. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the size of your heart and the strength of your character.” Like in the speech, the show had heart and strength of character, which, I am sorry to say, is sorely missing from the 2022 movie prequel.
Rob Zombie attempts to reboot the franchise by giving us the story of how Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips) meet, fall in love and eventually marry. There is a loose plot surrounding their courtship and Lily’s father, The Count’s (Daniel Roebuck) dislike of Herman. A subplot involving The Count’s ex-wife attempting to steal their ancestral home also comes into play and gives the impetus for the families move from Transylvania to America. The movie retains the original series time period and takes place in the 1960s, which did give the movie its own sense of flare and style. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the productions aesthetic, but as the movie progressed, I came to appreciate it. The use of bright neon green and blues, along with sets that look like they are straight out of the old sci-fi movies we watched on creature features as children, and simple colorful animated backgrounds was probably the best part of the movie.
The story is a bit muddled and does not flow well making the rhythm of the film choppy and uneven. The music by Zeuss didn’t feel like it fit in, adds no emotional connection to the scene and takes the audience out of the period. The script is full of gags and one-liners that never really hit home, I chuckled a couple of times, but never really laughed. There are a couple of performances that aren’t too bad. Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman Munster captures elements of Fred Gwynn’s original character, particularly in vocal patterns. I almost didn’t recognize Jorge Garcia (Hurley, Lost) who plays a hunchback named Floop, his vocal intonations are very different than anything I have seen him play, and I was impressed. Unfortunately, the good performances were hindered by some of their counterpart’s over the top acting and lack of comic timing. Rob Zombie’s always having to cast his wife Sherry in everything he does results in a Lily Munster with none of the flare and finesse of Yvonne De Carlo. Additionally, we do not get a Marilyn Munster whose “normal” looks provides for some funny stuff as the family looks upon her with pity that she is so “homely”. And, this being the story of how Herman and Lily met, we don’t get the Munster’s son, Eddie.
The real issue with the movie is it didn’t retain the sense of subtle satire. The movie spent far too long immersed in the world of monsters whereas the real laughs in the original series came from the Munsters being this far out family surrounded by a world of everyday people. The humor originally came from the characters thinking they are normal with their monstrous differences being handled in a matter-of-fact way adding comical satire and irony. The movie lacked all subtlety and instead opted for over the top site gags. Rob Zombie left out the very thing that made the Munster’s a hit, its very real heart!
There were two films featuring the Munsters. The first was Munster, Go Home! (1966) which was produced immediately after the TV series wrapped production. It featured the original cast sans Pat Priest’s Marilyn who was replaced by Debbie Watson. The plot had Herman inheriting an English manor known as Munster Hall from Cavanaugh Munster so the family packs up and travels to England. Of note is the fact that Herman’s British relatives do not look like monsters. Another film, a made for TV movie came much later in 1981 and was called The Munsters’ Revenge. It reassembled the original cast of Fred Gwynn, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis for a final time with the roles of Marilyn and Eddie being recast.
A new Munsters series called The Munsters Today ran for 3 seasons in syndication from 1988-1991 and starred John Schuck and Lee Meriweather as Herman and Lily.
In 1995, Fox ran a Halloween special on October 31 called Here Come The Munsters that starred Edward Herrmann as Herman, Veronica Hamel as Lily and Robert Morse as Grandpa.
In 1996 another Made-For-TV film called The Munster’s Scary Little Christmas was aired. It starred yet another new cast in Sam McMurray as Herman, Ann Magnuson as Lily and Sandy Baron as Grandpa.
Finally, in 2012 NBC commissioned a new but very different Munsters series from producer Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) which would have been a one hour drama-comedy called Mockingbird Lane. NBC really didn’t know what it wanted and squashed the series pick up and aired the pilot as a Halloween special with no advertising and against some stiff competition from the other networks.
Have we seen the end of The Munster family? Probably not. America seems fascinated with the family of monsters and the Addams Family as well and continues to resurrect both every now and then. There is a timelessness to these characters that teaches us that while our neighbors may not look like us they really are very much like us, just families trying to get by in this wacky, crazy world.
At Comic-Watch, we try to keep a positive attitude in our reviews, but sometimes that just isn't possible. If you liked this movie, the more power to you! Peoples tastes differ and as I have said before, never let anyone tell you how you should feel about something. I, personally, did not like this movie and believe it missed the mark completely.
The Munsters: This Comedy is Dead!
- Writing - 5/105/10
- Storyline - 5/105/10
- Acting - 6/106/10
- Music - 2/102/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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