The Addams Family; or Try and Not Snap Snap Along

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we talk about a film that’s good for the little boils and ghouls to watch with the groan-ups. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get the family together for a mamushka under the moonlight.

Today’s film offering: The Addams Family

Lilly: The Addamses are the patron saints of the weird but welcoming. Originally mere illustrations on the page created by Charles Addams, the family burst onto screen in the mid sixties and they proceeded to be off and on it, whether it was live action or cartoon, until the present day, where talks of the musical heading to the UK are happening. You can’t keep a bad family down, so to speak, and the Addams have merrily proven that.

Andy: For many people though, this version may be the definitive one, in the same way that Jack Nicholson is the definitive Joker, no matter how far Heath Ledger or Jared Leto go or the fact that the character first appeared when Mr.Nicholson was three years old.

Lilly: 1991’s The Addams Family decided to take the story of the Addamses and shake it up a little. The film tells the story of a lost Addams brother, Fester, and that lack of Fester being taken advantage of by a conniving woman and her son who bears a passing resemblance to the lost relative. They attempt to infiltrate the family from the inside to get ahold of the fortune they know is kept in the Addams family vault. Not actually as easy as it sounds (not that it sounds easy at all to fool a man like Gomez who is clearly passionate about his familial connections), and it proves to be far more difficult than they could handle. Toss in the fact that maybe it isn’t so bad for the son, being an Addams, and you got yourself a fun family romp!

It is incredibly difficult to talk about this film with any sort of distance for me because the Addams Family are basically my heroes. They are weird, gothy, creepy folk who are happy to welcome you into your home! Who doesn’t aspire to that! I wish I could host like Morticia, be as enthusiastic as Gomez, or as hip as Cousin Itt. But. For the sake of Hallowfest, I’ll attempt to critique it.

Andy: There is something very appealing about them as a family unit. They are, in many ways, the ultimate outsiders – they clearly have money, but fashion means almost nothing to them in their embrace of gothic chic. Their family motto – “We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us.” – as well as being hilarious suggests the kind of screw-you mentality that many of us who grew up as outsiders strive for. And at the heart of it is a family that, although very weird, is also loving, kind, passionate and caring. They can foster a greater understanding of our values simply by rejecting some of them and fully embracing others; and they, ultimately, are just as human as we are; teaching us that perhaps our differences as humans are merely cosmetic and that our similarities are far deeper. Not bad for a family film!

Lilly: Exactly! Exactly. This. The Addamses send the very strong message that you can be a role model without having to be like everyone else. You can like dark decor and still have a bright outlook.

So onto the cast. This is a film that was made with a good chunk of history behind it–people had played the roles before, there were comparisons ready to be made. There had already been three Gomez Addamses prior to Raúl Juliá, and four Morticias prior to Angelica Huston! Yet, when I think of Gomez Addams, it’s Juliá I think of. He was Gomez! And Huston! Come on. Their chemistry was nuts (and g rated, even with the sexy S&M references because if your kid gets it, that’s up to you), and they were everything I wanted to be when I grew up. And they took the roles seriously, which can’t always be said for films that are adaptations of shows and cartoons.

Andy: And how nice is it to see a married couple where one character doesn’t look down on the other. There is never, ever any sense of one looking down or putting up with the other.

Lilly: Throw in Christopher Lloyd’s confused Fester, and Christina Ricci’s on point blank-faced Wednesday, and again, you forget these roles were played multiple times before. That’s pretty impressive.

If you are talking plot, The Addams Family pretty much gives what it says on the box. This is where it is evident that this film has had decades of audience tests and joke re-writes because it was a perfect feature length film introduction and embrace of the Addamses without coming off as shoving too much in or being too brief with the details. The film goes along at a clip because it knows it has a past and isn’t going to be bogged down by details. The Addamses aren’t about the details, anyway.

Andy: So, over all, is it a recommendation from us?

Lilly: Always. Like the song says, those Addamses really are a scream. Not to mention great role models, loving parents, and a warmly loving, functioning family unit. It’s just not as easy to write those parts into a theme song, I guess. So go, watch, enjoy!

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