Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, Carol Kane, Jimmy Workman, Kaitlyn Hooper, Kristen Hooper, Carel Struycken, David Krumholtz, Christopher Hart, Dana Ivey, Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski, Mercedes McNab, Nathan Lane, David Hyde Pierce
Written by: Paul Rudnick, based on characters created by Charles Addams
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 94
Date: 11/18/1993

Addams Family Values (1993)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Monsters, Wink

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It was worth it to make a sequel to the very successful but unfunny one-note Addams Family (1991), for two reasons. Firstly, because Christina Ricci was so inspired in the first film as little Wednesday, that it's great to see her again, and secondly, the script, by playwright Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey) is much better this time, and actually funny.

The plot (it really isn't necessary to have a plot in an "Addams Family" movie, but Hollywood seems to insist) concerns a Black Widow killer (played by the wonderful Joan Cusack) who becomes interested in wealthy, single Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd). She masquerades as a nanny, marries him, dresses him differently and tries to kill him. The funny thing is that the Addams' admire every twisted thing she does up until she tries the unspeakable: she forbids Fester to see his family again.

In the meantime, she sends Wednesday (Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) to summer camp, a subplot that contains the best stuff in the movie. The summer camp is run by horrible, happy, upbeat annoying people who prefer the popular, pretty blonde kids over the misfits: the minorities, the gimps, the shy kids, the kids with big noses. The misfits suffer a kind of punishment when thrown into a room filled with stuffed animals and pictures of kittens and made to watch "family" movies. The wonderful Ricci eats up her character's gloominess and sends out deadpan one-liners, while oozing a strange, forbidden sexuality. This is dream casting; she is far more electric than anyone would have had a right to imagine.

In addition, many of the other characters chomp up their scenery and have a great deal of fun. The late Raul Julia (in his final role) gives his all as the articulate, charming, manic and slick Gomez, who tangos, rolls his tongue when he screams, and speaks French. Cusack is wonderful as the sexy killer nanny; the great Carol Kane gives her few lines the gusto she is famous for and Christopher Lloyd disappears into uncle Fester. But, the ordinarily good Anjelica Huston is made to stand still all the time because the director, Barry Sonenfeld, decided that she needed a key light on her eyes in every scene. Her motion, and thus her acting are restricted, so as not to disturb this ethereal effect. (Sonenfeld was the cinematographer on many of the Coen Brothers' movies.)

In the end, Addams Family Values smacks of "sorry the first one sucked so bad -- please try this one instead, it's much better". I like it when Hollywood apologizes. And I liked this movie. Apology accepted.

Movies Unlimtied