Darke Reviews | Addams Family Values (1993)

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.

TL;DR

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.

 

Darke Reviews | Ghostbusters (1984)

So this was a four movie weekend, with November Man, As Above So Below, a second viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy, and this release – Ghostbusters. I had the lovely opportunity to see this on an XD screen friday night. Why the late review? Two main reasons with the first being the boring stuff of housework. The second being I wanted to wait to see how the box office panned out for this weekend to give me something additional to write about.

Well what about the movie itself?

We have a story written by Harold Ramis (Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack) and Dan Aykroyd a relative unknown to the writing circuit with only Blues Brothers to his name. Now, they also have some TV under their collective belts as well with Aykroyd as a writer for 56 episodes of Saturday Night Live, now in its 8th season. Ramis is no slouch either, with his work on 47 episodes of the Canadian variant SCTV (Second City Television). It also helps these two are both natural actors and comedians themselves with quite the body of work on them combined. Aykroyd is most famous for his turn as Elwood Blues and his recent success in Trading Places which stayed in the top 10 for an amazing 19 weeks, made more even impressive by it having only 700 theatres for the final 10. Ramis, like Aykroyd also stared in the show he wrote, as well as his own appearance in Stripes.

Pair this comedic writing talent with a director who understands the people he is working with and it should be a recipe for success right? Well thats where we get Ivan Reitman. Director of Meatballs and Stripes. He also was a producer on the wildly insane Animal House and even stranger animated movie Heavy Metal.  A good set of writers and pretty good director should make for a good movie. Thats where acting comes in.

I’ve already talked up Aykroyd(Dr. Raymond Stantz) and Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler). The three main leads are rounded out with Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman. You may have seen him in Meatballs, Caddyshack, or Stripes. Noticing a pattern here? In some cases such repetitive work doesn’t pan out, its like lightning in a bottle. In this case it does as the men can play off each other amazing well with a natural chemistry and charm that makes even Murray’s Venkman, who is rather unlikeable, somewhat charming.
What of the costars?

Off setting the raw comedic talent is the tough girl of sci fi – Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett) who played Ellen Ripley in 1979’s Alien. She recently worked with newcomer Mel Gibson in the Year of Living Dangerously, but with only three credits to her name putting her in this comedy is a bit odd. It works, it works perfectly. Another TV to screen transfer is Rick Moranis also from SCTV. There are rumors he has some writing credit on this movie as well – which wouldn’t be a surprise. His portrayal as Louis Tully is a different kind of comedy than the boys with the proton packs give and  works fairly well. Another TV star joins the cast as well with William Atherton as an antagonist – who sadly I tend to agree with his ideals if not his methods. Character actor Ernie Hudson plays the straight man to the boys in brown as Winston Zeddemore. He is just just what this film needed aside from Weaver to ground everything in something relatable and touchable.

From a technical standpoint they did a lot right. They went as practical as they could. Miniatures, composite shots, layers, all of the tricks of the trade were used. The animation work holds pretty well too and in some cases is actually pretty scary when seen on high definition TV.

TL;DR?

This movie is funny. This movie is entertaining. I think it can hold up for quite some time to come. If you didn’t see it this weekend – you should have but you have the rest of the week to see it!

Do so. This movie is for all ages! Let me know what you think. I’m ready to believe you.

Now…for the entire surreal element to end. I wanted to write this review as if I was writing it for a new release. It deserves that. Nostalgia aside this thing holds up 30 years later in nearly every department aside from FX. Even then, most of those hold up. The movie is one of the all time greats and is absolutely worth seeing this week.

Now as far as the box office. I said i wanted to write about it. On the four days of release Ghostbusters at 30 years later did almost as much as Sin City 2 did in its second week. Now, that isn’t a fair comparison. You see A Dame to Kill for had FOUR times as many theatres as Ghostbusters. THAT is awesome for a movie 30 years old and terrible for a movie only in its second week. Another kind of awesome fact about Ghostbusters, in its 30 week run back in 1984 it was #1, 2 or 3 for 16 weeks. Only Purple Rain and Red Dawn knocked it out during that time.

If you were an adult who saw this as a child – take your child to it. The kids in my showing really seemed to enjoy it.

Now there’s only one real question – Who ya gonna call?

Darke Reviews | Young Frankenstein (1974)

Wrapping up the month of October is the film that is Halloween tradition in my home. It may come as a surprise to many that this movie, a comedy, is among my favorite films ever. I do generally dislike most modern comedies and even most of the comedy that was popular a I was growing up. I require my comedy to have actual wit, elegant puns and actors who know how to deliver with perfect timing. For that, I will take you to the year 1974.

Obviously this was before I was born, but at the same time I consider this perhaps the best year in comedy cinema. It is also Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s best year. Why? This was the year both Blazing Saddles AND Young Frankenstein were released. These perhaps are the best comedies I have ever seen, I will always watch them and no matter how many times I see them, I laugh. It’s a rare thing to truly make me laugh and these films do it. You aren’t reading this to figure out what makes me laugh, you want to know about the review for Young Frankenstein.

Written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, then directed by Mel Brooks. It not only understands what makes good fun, but also appreciates the source material. They acquired the sets from the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein to use in the movie. They take appropriately comedic references to the originals that add to the film and give acknowledgement to the source without taking away from either. The entirety of the film is played straight with the exception of one character who gives a wink and a nod to the audience. It was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing – Screenplay Adapted from other material. An Oscar nomination, for a comedy! (It technically has two nods, one for Best Sound as well). It’s worth mentioning that a budget of around $3 million turned an $86 million US box office take.

The writing and classic Brooks directing aside, to get it right you need acting. For that we have Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Terri Garr. There’s even a cameo by Gene Hackman. Everyone turns out a performance that’s just incredible with perfect timing, expression, body language and delivery. As awesome as they all are, special acknowledgement should be given to Marty Feldman. He was taken from us too soon, but his talents are preserved here. If I were making a Deadpool movie back in 1974, I would have cast Feldman. His ability to break the fourth wall seamlessly and use his expressive eyes to their fullest is on full display.

I could go on and on about this movie for a long time, but I want to end the month of reviews on a high note and get you to the TL;DR

See this movie. Period. No ifs. No ands. No buts. See this movie.

That’s it folks, hope you’ve enjoyed the month of reviews. I will be doing some of the new releases this month as they come out, may even through a special review in here or there. I have some plans for December as well, more on that later.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

This is Jessica Darke, last surviving member of the Nostromo signing out.