Whenever I stumble upon The Addams Family or Addams Family Values, I have to watch it to the end. Even though I own both on DVD. These movies never fail to make me laugh. In the 90s there were a lot of movie remakes of classic television shows and most of them are shit. The advantage that The Addams Family had was it was able to take the existing material and truly modernize it. The television show presented a family who was odd but pleasant. They were always eager to meet new people but would accidentally scare them off with their creepy house. In the films, the family can be a lot darker and really run with the concept. There are frequent jokes about the various family members murdering people, committing arson, and engaging in acts of violent sex. This is a great example of everyone involved with a film just having fun with the material.
The film has an outstanding cast. Raul Julia and Angelica Houston are perfection as Gomez and Morticia. In the show, John Astin was a charming but somewhat goofy Gomez. Julia gives Gomez a hint of danger. It’s hard to say who is the better Gomez, but Julia gets some of the best moments of the films. He’s amazingly over the top, especially when faced with any type of setback. When kicked out the family mansion in the first film, he quickly devolves into a rerun watching couch potato, completely giving up on life.
Angelica Houston clearly had great time as Morticia. She gets to be sexy, mysterious, and wickedly hilarious. In the second film, the crew has a movie long joke about Morticia and her lighting. In every scene, she is specially lit, a beam of light across her eyes. She even occasionally walks into her special lighting. It’s an extra wink to the viewer that always cracks me up. One thing that made Gomez and Morticia different than other couples on television in the 60s, was that they were the first couple that clearly had sex with each other. They overflowed with passion at a time where couples couldn’t even be shown in the same bed. In the films, they really kick it up a notch, with reference to their kinky bedroom behavior and engaging in sexual acts at a charity auction. To this day, they are one of the few couples in television or film that show that your sex life doesn’t die when you have kids.
Christina Ricci dominates the second film, really coming into her own as an actress with Wednesday’s brilliant barbs. Wednesday had very little to do in the series so to have her become such a fully realized character is a real treat. In Addams Family Values, she and brother Pugsley attend sleep-away camp, where they stand out among their bubbly campmates. They are sent to the Harmony Hut where they are forced to watch family fare in order to learn how to be chipper. Wednesday exits smiling, ready to follow the rules, only to rebel later, burning the camp to the ground. Wednesday attempting to smile is hilarious.
The screenwriters did themselves a favor by creating strong plots that complimented the familiar characters. It didn’t rely on sticking the family members in wacky situations. Both films focus on Fester Addams (which is interesting, because in the television show he wasn’t even an Addams, he was Morticia uncle). In the first film, Fester (played by staple of my childhood Christopher Lloyd) has been lost for years and suffers amnesia when a con-artist uses him to trick the family out of their millions. Over time, he learns to love the family and realizes he is, indeed, an Addams. In the sequel, he meets and falls in love with the family’s nanny (played by Joan Cusack, clearly relishing in the chance to play the sexy villain) only to discover she has a history of murdering her wealthy husbands. They are plots that could have worked with original characters but compliment these pop culture icons.
The dialogue is really smart. What really works is that the family is both aware that they are different and completely oblivious to it. One of my favorite bits is when Cousin Itt (you know, the walking mound of hair) shows up to the family’s Halloween celebration wearing a cowboy hat and a holster. His wife (who is a totally normal human) says everyone keeps asking him where he got his costume. To which Gomez says “It is a great hat”, because that’s what people are struck by. The hat the walking mound of hair is wearing. I could probably dissect every joke in both movies, giggling the whole time, but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? The Family Channel (excuse me, ABC Family- gag) was airing both films regularly for awhile. I urge all who come across them to check them out, for the first or hundredth time.
Gomez: [shouting] Has the planet gone mad? My brother, passion’s hostage. I seek justice – denied! I shall not submit! I shall conquer! I shall rise! My name is Gomez Addams, and I have seen evil!
[Grandma waves Pubert in the air]
Gomez: I have seen horror!
Gomez: I have seen the unholy maggots which feast in the dark recesses of the human soul!
Morticia: They’re at camp.