Ok, I am doing two classics in a row here. Mostly because these films are beautifully crafted gothic humor classics. This one also breaks Hollywood tradition when it comes to sequels. Sure there are a handful of good sequels out there, but its rare enough that people can name things like Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II and they stick out. No I am not in any way comparing Addams Family Values to those two films level of film making, but the three films do have one thing in common.
Barry Sonnenfeld (Addams Family, Men in Black) returned to this film almost immediately after the success of the first film. Success you may ask? Well on a $30 million budget they made $114 million domestic officially marking it as a blockbuster. The first film was even nominated for two academy awards. I wish I could say the second did as well, but it only brought in $48 million (budget unknown). I have to admit now as we get into the details of the review – upon first watching I thought it was ok. I didn’t like it nearly as much. Let’s get back to that and I’ll get into the reasons why.
Sonnenfeld had great success with the first outing, but has since proven in the years to come that tends to be a trend with him. Men in Black was new and brilliant with significant changes from its comic book source material to make it a scifi comedy. The sequels were…ahem less than stellar. I shall also only name this film once, I will never review it without financial compensation – Sonnenfeld is responsible for Wild Wild West. *shudder*
For reasons I don’t fully understand even now, rather than using the writers from the first film again they went with a new untested writer. Perhaps Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson couldn’t meet the time table Paramount set. This has been known to happen before, so instead we get first time screenwriter Paul Rudnick, who has but one movie I recognize since – the forgettable Stepford Wives.
While the success and atmosphere of the first film and the cast of Addams’ made it difficult to stray too far – somehow they did. Now the story itself isn’t so bad, but it plays on nearly the same theme as the first film. A con artist (this time something more) inserts her way into the family and focuses on Fester. The family is too naive in their own special way that they can’t see it. It really does feel like the first movie rehashed more poorly as so much of the family connection is separated here. We also introduce the poor joke of a newborn child – because its the early 90s and babies must be in everything! Granted the summer camp scene while painful did deliver so many of the memorable lines. That comes down to successful casting again.
Every member of the Addams clan returns to reprise their roles. With time and experience Ricci became a scene stealer between films. In the first one, she was good – here she is a mistress of all that is Wednesday Addams and can even steal scenes from Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd. Honestly she steals every scene she is in. I am still not a fan of the Lloyd casting as Fester, but I can’t think of anything better. The casting I think I like least is Joan Cusack. Her voice is near nails on a chalkboard for me. I just cannot stand her in this film.
What I enjoyed was seeing a very young David Krumholtz (NUMB3RS, Serenity), and cameos by people we know and love now such as Nathan Lane, David Hyde Pierce, and Tony Shalhoub. Another point I enjoy, while I loathe the character archetype, the character of Amanda Buckman was played by Mercedes McNab was the same girl from the first movie in the girl scout scene. It was a cute callback and quite honestly entirely possible to be the same character. McNab later went on to play Harmony Kendall in Buffy and Angel.
Now I kind of ripped the movies plot apart above, but while the plot may fail – the jokes are just funnier. It is a far more quotable and memorable movie. Even after watching the first yesterday, and loving it all over again, I am hard pressed to quote it. It just doesn’t stick. This one does.
I think, in retrospect, I would switch the two films. While I do love the first and have some significant problems with the second, the second just ends up being a better film over the passage of time. The first film is timeless, but not memorable. The second film is clearly 90s, but far more memorable.
Both have strengths and weaknesses – but as I said before the second just tends to be a bit better of a film for me. My crush for Wednesday Addams continues to this day because of this film. I honestly swear I would try to be more like her if I thought I could get away with it more.
So there it is: Addams Family Values, a modern classic and a comedy (black as it may be at times) that I love and recommend.
It may take time to grow on you but I really think it does.