The Addams Family [Retro Review]

“Don’t torture yourself, Gomez. That’s my job.”

The Scoop: 1991 PG, directed by Barry Sonnenfield and starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci

Tagline: Weird is relative.

Summary Capsule: Trippy goth tribe weird out the neighbors.

DnaError’s Rating: *snap snap*

DnaError’s Review: TV to movie translations have a bad, well-deserved rep. Comic to movies are worse. So how is it that a comic to TV to movie movie is so damned good? Simple: It’s Wednesday, stupid. What young boy didn’t have his heart stolen by the little morbid package and her endless one-liners? Only me? Okay.

The Addams Family is a lot like Wayne’s World. Both come from TV, both features odd characters in a world that hates them (rock-slackmasters in one, a Goth-prototype family in the other) and both have more quotes then you can shake a stick at. The sheer number of great lines to use in everyday conversation (“We’re going to play Is There A God?”) has been enough to make the movie a well-worn fav.

The cast is excellent. No one else could be the French-spouting, fencing romantic Gomez then Raul Julia. No one else could be the pale-faced goth dreamboat Morticia but Anjelica Huston. And No one could ever be the little bundle of gleeful torture Wednesday but a young Christina Ricci. The director, Barry Sonnenfeld, creates a Burton-equse world for the Addams to live in, dark, goolish, and endlessly funny. If you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favor and spend a night with the Addams. (And, like Wayne’s World, the sequel is even better.)

Kyle’s Rating: Not just you, Dna. Wednesday stole my heart as well…

Kyle’s Review: You know, The Addams Family is a film that is quite good, yet retains such an insular charm that it’s impossible to really adore it like we would all like to. Tim Burton’s cinematic endeavors immediately come to mind for comparison purposes, and side-by-side it’s pretty easy to see that The Addams Family has a heart, but it’s tiny and sheltered and impervious to outside attentions. Burton’s work often wears its heart on its sleeve, and is so vulnerable and fragile that we want to comfort and cry alongside Burton’s characters. I can barely watch Edward Scissorhands when I flip to it on cable because oh man, I’ll be depressed all night if I finish watching it! Nooooo!

The Addams Family is a great bunch, but because they’re set up as charmingly “off” in an universe that obviously values them above all other inhabitants, we end up not really liking or fearing them much at all. We get a rather emotionless escapade with them, and it’s fun, yet when it’s over we don’t miss them nor are we in a hurry to see them again. Thus far I’ve skipped the sequel: I never saw the television show and I don’t intend to, so why see any more? The Addams Family is a perfect slice of this quirky (I hesitate to say “freaky” to describe them, though it just dawned on me that it’s in their theme song, if I remember correctly, and that’s funny!) family, and I don’t want any more.

This is not really the review I intended to write, but it sort of got away from me. I was certainly going to compose some sort of informal ode to Wednesday, and talk about what a great atmosphere this film had, but then I realized that the movie really does keep me at arm’s length the whole time, and I can’t be the only one. I guess that’s Barry Sonnenfeld’s schtick: I’ve felt emotionally distanced from his other films like Get Shorty and Men in Black II, and I really only get involved watching Men in Black because Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith pull me in with their charm. Wowsers! Good job, guys!

But The Addams Family is certainly worth seeing. It’s not quite tragic nor is it unbearably light, it’s just a fun look at a “happy” family that may be supernatural but at its blackened core is the sort of brood we all wish we could be a part of, especially us goth and emo kids. And again: what guy can deny they wanted to date Wednesday? She’s awesome! Murderous and malevolent, yet spookily alluring and a little frightening in a “my skeleton is not composed in the same way or of the same materials as yours” way. Hoogah! If you haven’t seen this, check it out, because it’s probably the closest we’ll get to a successful attempt at non-Burton Beetlejuice antics and because Raul Julia really was good in everything he did. Yes, even Street Fighter. No, really.

I also just read, while doing enough miniscule research to make Justin think I’m actually doing my job, that when McDonalds sold a VHS copy of The Addams Family to junk food lovers, it was subtly edited for bad content. This means we don’t hear the judge cry out “Damn you, Addams!” when his house is assaulted by Gomez’ golf balls, and we don’t see Lurch selling vacuum cleaners to help the family. Hey, thanks for looking after my moral wellbeing, McDonalds. That makes up for my clogged arteries!

25 cents for a cup of lemonade...from HELL!

Intermission!

  • The names on the children’s exit chutes stop over, and then back again.
  • When Fester returns, he says he has missed Wednesday and Pugsley, but how can he have missed them when he left 25 years ago, and neither child was born yet?
  • The director is has a cameo as the passenger in Gomez’ model train.
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld had not originally planned to use the theme music from the television series in the movie. He included it in the opening sequence after positive reactions to the early trailer, which included the theme.
  • Several scenes reference original Charles Addams illustrations, most notably: the introduction sequence, the passenger on Gomez’s toy train and Pugsley with the road sign.

Groovy Quotes

Wednesday [hooking up an electric chair]: Pugsley, sit in the chair.
Pugsley: Why?
Wednesday: Because we’re going to play a game.
Pugsley: What game?
Wednesday: [strapping him in] It’s called, “Is There a God?”

Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?
Wednesday: Yes.
Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they’re real lemons?
Pugsley: Yes.
Girl Scout: I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?
Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?

[Watching Pugsley sleep]
Morticia: He looks so sweet. Looks just like a little entree.

Morticia: Don’t torture yourself, Gomez. That’s my job.

Gomez: How long has it been since we waltzed?
Morticia: Oh, Gomez… hours.

If you liked this movie, try these:

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Addams Family Values [Retro Review] « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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