Movie Review : The Addams Family Values (1993)
I fucking love the Addams family. I used to watch the cartoons with a quasi-religious diligence (I saw the whole show more than once). The Saturday morning super heroes made their time with me, but the spooky New Jersey family managed to stay with me as I grew up. I suspect I'm not alone. Believe it or not, they were born out of Charles Addams' brain in a 1933 number of The New Yorker, which makes them the most (and only) funny cartoon to ever grace this magazine. I always thought they were a wonderful statement against conformity. They are a loving, caring and FUNCTIONAL family, despite looking like rejects from a Tim Burton movie. They live up to their Hollywood catch phrase: "Weird is relative". And yesterday, they were on TV, on an artsy national channel.
Family Values is the second movie made with the Addams family, with Barry Sonnenfeld behind the wheel. They are placed in this deliciously cliché situation where Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) falls in love with the new nanny Debbie (Joan Cusack). She was hired because Wednesday (Ricci) got jealous of newborn Pubert (Kaitlin Hooper) and tried to deal about it like only she can. Gomez (Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) then hilariously do what every responsibly parent do, they hired Debbie and sent the kids to a summer camp while Pubert settles in the house. Then the movie splits in half. One part is about Fester, falling prey to Debbie, who is in reality a dangerous black widow and the second part is about Wednesday and my personal favorite Pugsley, who try to figure their way out of a camp that bears eerie similaries with nazi P.O.W camps (a wink to The Great Escape if you ask me). But having Wednesday and Pugsley Addams under your responsibility is a lot worse than having to deal with Steve McQueen.
This is obviously a very cliché movie, but the fun part is that the Addams can't help but to corrupt whatever they touch, with their mix of over-the-top slapstick humor and subtle social puns. The plot will pull no punches, but it's not very important. The movie makes a point. You don't need to be like the others to be happy. It's illustrated through the long, passionate and melancholic rants of Gomez about his troubled relationship with his brother Fester (noticeably the most hilarious scene of the movie where Gomez goes to the police station and tries to convince an agent that Debbie is a bad person). Through Wednesday's disgust with the summer camp's racial and historical fallacy and also through the loving relationship in between Gomez and Morticia.
You can argue that the Addams' have been stating the same thing since 1993, which is true, but I can never get enough of their happiness. They stand up to occidental society with debonnaire. It's been seventeen years since The Addams Family Values came out and their presence in the mainstream media have been scarce ever since, but I don't think they are bound to disappear. They are a vigorous remedy to that 1950s monolithic suburban family portrait that still haunt collective consciousness. They will always be relevant.