Addams Family Values [Retro Review]

“We’re not shy, we’re contagious.”

The Scoop: 1993 PG-13, directed by Barry Sonnenfield and starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci

Tagline: The family just got a little stranger.

Summary Capsule: There’s a new baby, a trip to summer camp, and a murder plot afoot.

DnaError’s Rating: Not contagious, just shy.

DnaError’s Review: This is the rare sequel that’s better then the original. It’s tighter, goofier, with more one-liners and… much more Wednesday. Everything said about the first film is the same here. The great casting, the dark/fun look, the viciously funny one-liners. There is just MORE of it in a shorter time. And that’s a good thing.

The plot concerns the birth of the new Addams, the mustached Pubert. The other kids don’t take kindly to the new addition, and try to find away to get rid of him (Leading to one of the most-quoted lines in my life “Where did you put that baby!?” “Which part?”) Soon, a busty, cloying nanny named Debbie (Joan Cusak) arrives with evil intentions which leads to the doomy Addams kids shipped away to the sunny, fresh-air environment of Summer Camp.

The camp scenes are worth the price of rental alone. Anyone who was forced to endure the forced happiness and participation will delight in Wednesday’s sharp-tongued comments (“Why are you dressed like somebody died?” “Wait.”) The rest of the movie is funny, Joan Cusak especially as the queen-beotch Debbie (“Don’t I ache and yearn and SHOP?”) But it’s the camp’s ending that makes this movie.

Looking back, I’d recommend this movie over the original it’s got more jokes and doesn’t drag near the end. See this one first, then the original Addams Family.


Justin’s Rating:
Why Halloween should come at least 3 times a year.

Justin’s Review: Remember that pivital scene in Scream 2, when the film class busts their puny earthling brains to think of non-Star Wars and non-James Cameron sequels that rose to greater heights than their ancestors? Man, that scene got me SO mad, since I spent the rest of the week thinking of better sequels. I’d be in the middle of a nice morning constitution and think, “Return of the Killer Tomatoes! Much funnier than the first!” Then later “Dogma! Evil Dead 2! Star Trek 2! Leprechaun 4!” would pop into mind, causing me to brake suddenly in the middle of rush hour highway traffic, and I’d have to explain to the cops and the grieving families that it was ALL SCREAM 2‘s FAULT! Or Britney Spears, I always try to pin everything on one of those two.

Addams Family Values easily makes that list as well. For not only is it rare for a sequel to best its predecessor, just you try wracking your brain for comedy sequels that improve on the original. Ain’t many, huh? The Addams Family was a so-so 90s “classic TV series to movie” transition that was the popular wave. Like its siblings (such as The Beverly Hillbillies or The Brady Bunch), much of the humor not only came from updating the material, but also contrasting it with the so-called modern world. Still, it lacked substance and character depth, no matter how wacked it tried to be. For some wonderful reason, filmmakers got it so right the second time around. It veered away from that “we’re trying so haaaaard to make it ka-razy for you” feeling, and more into pure homogenized stinky fun.

The secret to the Addams Family is not that they’re dark and macabre to shock you into laughing; they could’ve easily started throwing gooey brains and severed body parts around for cheap laughs, but refrained from being crass. Instead, what makes me laugh is they’re sheer earnestness about such morbid subjects, always inferring instead of showing. So when Wednesday and Pugsley have their new baby brother on the guillotine block and are reading him his death sentence, it doesn’t cause parents to snatch their children from the room as if the monkey from Outbreak came in for a visit — no, they themselves are trying to restrain giggles welling up from their chests. The Addams’ world is just so wrong, but I can’t help but think they’d be pretty keen as next door neighbors.

Here returns the savage love affair of Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston), continuing with their tengo del muerto, open in their affections as they are in some questionable S&M routines. Here returns the kiddos, the naive Pugsly (Jimmy Workman) and the Queen of Straight Lines, Wednesday (Christina Ricci), along with their new baby brother Pubert (dude, is there a BETTER name for a kid than that?). Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) makes time with the new homicidal nanny (Joan Cusack), and Lurch, Thing and Grandma all make returns. Even the house is back, about 40 stories tall and complete with the torture room package.

In the midst of this already good movie is one of the most hilarious comedic subplots in cinema history: Pugsly and Wednesday are booted off to the summer camp from heaven. So far out of their element as to render Wednesday’s thumbscrews powerless, the kids make a stand for true freaky weirdness. It’s not easy, as most of the other camp residents are insanely cheerful, bubbly rich airheads. More than once are the Addams siblings sent to the Harmony Hut (which has, in the best sight gag of the film, posters of Michael Jackson) due to their anarchist attitudes. Eventually they lead a revolt with some of the other camp outcasts — by changing the history of Thanksgiving, no less. I remember seeing this in the theater and practically howling with laughter by the time the kids leave the camp… it’s just that good.

It’s fast-paced, has enough subplots to satisfy most of you A.D.D. freaks, and is really, really one of the funniest movies from the 90s. Addams Family Values also manages to be an equal opportunity film; after all, who among us lacks the dark side that would love to bring a coffin to kindergarten for nap time? Man to man (yo), get this.

There's some...THING...on the wing!

Intermission!

  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld cameos as Mr. Glicker
  • The Addams Family was the brainchild of Charles Addams (1912-1988). His comics spawned The Addams Family sitcom, which ran from 1964 to 1966, starring John Astin, Carolyn Jones and the paw of a dead monkey that would grant you three backfiring wishes. The Addams Family returned in cartoon form between 1973 and 1975 (and would have another cartoon reincarnation in the late 90s). While Raul Julia’s death in 1994 and the rising stardom of Christina Ricci would prevent any more sequels with this movie cast, “Addams Family Reunion” came out straight to video in 1998 with Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah replacing the lead roles.
  • The score is great, particularly the tango sequence. And if memory serves me right, a McHammer song is playing as Cousin It exits his car.

Groovy Quotes

Young Girl: … and then Mommy kissed Daddy, and the angel told the stork, and the stork flew down from heaven, and put the diamond in the cabbage patch, and the diamond turned into a baby!
Pugsley: Our parents are having a baby too.
Wednesday: They had sex.

Amanda: [practicing lifesaving swims] I’ll be the victim!
Wednesday: All your life.

Debbie: These Addams men, where do you find them?
Morticia: It has to be damp.

Pugsley: We don’t hug.
Gary: Oh, you’re just shy.
Wednesday: We’re not shy, we’re contagious.

Amanda: Why are you dressed like somebody died?
Wednesday: Wait.

Gomez: Children, why do you hate the baby?
Pugsley: We don’t hate him. We just wanna play with him.
Wednesday: Especially his head.

Gomez: [to Fester] You’l meet someone. Someone very special. Someone who won’t press charges.

Debbie: Don’t I yearn? And ache? And shop? Don’t I deserve love? And jewelry?

Delivery Room Doctor: Would you like some anesthesia?
Morticia: No, but do ask the children.

Debbie: I just adore little babies. I just want to grab them and squeeze them until there’s not a breath left in their tiny little bodies!

Fester: My name is Fester. It means “to rot”.
Dementia: My name is Dementia. It means “madness”.

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7 Comments

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