For readers that aren’t familiar with me in person, I originally come from a small town called Philippi in West Virginia. Besides being home of one of the first (if not the first according to some historians) land battles (more like a skirmish) of the Civil War, one of our only other claims to fame is that we are the home town of Ted Cassidy, the actor who played Lurch on the original The Addams Family television program. Of course, The Addams Family franchise (originally based off of cartoons) got a modern face-lift in the early 90’s for two live action films. The first film ended up on my list for this blog because Anjelica Huston got a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Addams family matriarch Morticia, and while it’s not one of the best films I’ve watched so far, it was a fun nostalgic trip back to my childhood because I’m fairly certain that I haven’t watched this movie since I was in elementary school (I turn 23 in 17 days to put this into perspective).
In The Addams Family movie, the creepy and spooky (but endlessly wealthy) Addams family live in their decrepit mansion. Gomez Addams (a delightfully over-the-top Raul Julia) adores his pale-skinned and nearly vampiric wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) as well as his homicidal children Wednesday (a very young Christina Ricci) and Pugsley. When the family’s lawyer sells the family out to a conniving loan shark, the loan shark comes up with a plan to plant a fake Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in the household, as the real Fester has been missing for 25 years. Is this Fester look-alike, named Gordan, the real deal and if not, how far will he go to steal from these bizarre but otherwise genial inhabitants of a world far more surreal than our own.
I don’t know how to fill out this review. It’s essentially what you remember from the TV program although a little darker and more explicit perhaps. Pugsley and Wednesday repeatedly try and fail to kill one another. The scene at the school play where they enact Shakespeare and cover the audience in a Tarantino-esque geyser of fake blood was one of the film’s highlights. Raul Julia was brilliantly cast as Gomez. He looks like Clark Gable, swash-buckles like Errol Flynn, and chews the scenery until there’s nothing left. Anjelica Huston is one of the all-time greats for female actresses and she too inhabits Morticia well. I was actually sort of into her whole Elmyra, Mistress of the Dark thing she had going on this film and I’m not normally into the goth look at all. Christina Ricci was just a child when this movie was being made, but this is what made her mark and launched her to a very successful career as a child actress and she’s continuing to find work as an adult. Even as a kid, she had a very dry and deadpan sense of humor. Christopher Lloyd is a comedy legend, and while this wasn’t a Doc Brown caliber role, he made it work.
I enjoyed the movie. The way that it showed how their brand of strangeness and darkness would translate in a real world environment garnered some laughs during the final act even if the film often suffered from some pacing problems. Despite only being an hour and forty minutes long, it felt much longer. If you’re fans of great costume work and set direction, this film is a delight (and received an Oscar nod for Costume Design), and while Tim Burton wasn’t involved with the production of this film, it certainly feels like a film that could have fit in within the Tim Burton canon of movies like Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands (although obviously not as good or sharp as those films). If you were a fan of the cartoon or the TV series (or are just a fan of the weird and darkly stylistic Tim Burton films I mentioned), do yourself a favor and watch The Addams Family. It won’t change your life by any means, but it will be a fun and entertaining diversion for a slow afternoon.
Final Score: B