The Addams Family (1991)

The Addams Family (1991)

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"What do you mean 'creepy and kooky'?"
“What do you mean ‘creepy and kooky’?”

Twitter Plot Summary: Uncle Fester returns after 25 years in the wilderness – but is he really Uncle Fester? Well yeah, he is.

Genre: Comedy/Fantasy

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Key Cast: Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, Dana Ivey, Carel Struycken, Jimmy Workman, Judith Malina.

Five Point Summary:

1. Even 20+ years later, Thing looks fantastic.
2. Fester with hair. That’s just weird.
3. That is an elaborate method of protecting your money.
4. A normal, ordinary school play. How terrifying.
5. Hurricane Irene. A fitting end.

The creepy, kooky, altogether spooky Addams Family, they of cult 60s sitcom of the same name get the big screen treatment and, shock horror, it’s not an unmitigated disaster. It’s nothing special either, but at least you can sit through the whole thing without wanting to rip out your eyes. Which, given the film’s subject, would be an appropriate gesture.

The Addams Family are already established, no origin story required. This pleases me. Rather than waste half the film saying why they’re so odd, seeing the family form and so on, we just jump straight in. I would think that half of the reasoning for this is because the characters were established decades previously, so unless wholesale changes to the family are intended, it’s easy for an audience to pick things up within the first 5-10 minutes. What is missing however is Uncle Fester, brother to Gomez Addams and who has been missing for decades. As luck would have it, one of the crooked accountants maintaining the Addams family fortune happens to encounter the adopted son of his loan shark, who looks a lot like the missing Uncle Fester. They hatch a plan to present him as the long lost Fester and steal the vast fortune hidden away in the Addams’ vaults.

Wholesome fun for all the family.
Wholesome fun for all the family.

In my opinion you can’t fault the majority of the casting. Raul Julia is perfect as Gomez, Angelica Huston is sufficiently vampy as Morticia. Apparently Cher wanted the role but I doubt it would have worked anywhere near as well. And then there’s Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, in an excellent and early breakout role. Her deadpan delivery is perfect and a highlight of the film. If there’s one actor that doesn’t sit quite right, it’s Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. I’m not quite sure why he doesn’t seem to fit the role, and in all honesty I can’t suggest anybody else to replace him off the top of my head. I think maybe he’s too outward with the performance, a little over the top. Admittedly Raul Julia gleefully hams it up, but that fits with the character. Fester needs to be

It’s Barry Sonnenfeld’s first movie, yet it could easily have been a Tim Burton movie based on the visual aesthetic. It’s probably for the best that Burton didn’t get his gothic paws on this one, it would have been all style and no substance. Most will remember the film for Thing, the sentient hand that wanders around the house and arguably has more personality than the rest of the kooky family. Even today, 22 years later at the time of writing, the effects still look great. That’s not just for Thing either, overall it’s impressive work.

The film’s at its best when placing the Addams’ into a normal setting, in this instance a school play which is given a typical Addams Family slant, to the delight of the Addams’ and to the chagrin and horror of everybody else in the school theatre audience. It’s funny and the script offers nice twists on the expected happy family concept, giving it a much welcome slant towards the macabre. Yet the laughs are not as frequent as they should be, and the story is a little too thin for my tastes. Still, it’s entertaining and subverts many expected tropes by being delightfully dark, and that’s what matters.

Favourite scene: Wednesday and Pugsley performing a sword fight and spraying the audience with fake blood.

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

Silly Moment: Hurricane Irene. It’s thoroughly daft.

Score: 3/5

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