Sequels are a lot like seeing a hot girl wave to you. The initial burst of excitement is electric but its immediately slammed back down by reality’s cruel hand when you realize as your waving back, that she’s waving to the younger, thinner guy behind you. Thats how I felt when I saw Addams Family Values. Thrilled until I realized sequel mode had been engaged; double down on what worked the first time and add a gimmick.
The plot once again revolves around Uncle Fester, this time he is the object of a gold-digging black widow (Joan Cusack) who’s has set her sights on marrying him and stealing the family fortune. You can tell there was different screenwriter on this picture. Even though he’s familiar with the characters, having worked on some of the rewrites in Adams Family 1, his style is decidedly different than the previous authors. Writer Paul Rudnick is a funny guy, he wrote some of the most memorable subversive jokes ever heard in my youth and did an incredible job writing this movie for a wider audience. The problem I have with his wider approach is that it morphs the characters into ever-cheesier characterchures of themselves, especially the adults. Fester’s quirkiness has been amped up so much that he spends most of his screen time engaging in the kind of God awful scene-chew-ary that would embarrass even the most heinous of Jim Wynorski leads and Gomez and Morticia’s formerly potent chemistry is now just a goofy little aside.
The story may be driven by Fester but its obvious from the jump that they centered the movie on Wednesday. Christina Ricci absolutely steals the show as a now teenaged Wednesday Addams miserably afloat in a sea of shallow, blonde haired blue eyed Tweens. Rudnick gave her enough great one-liners to start a standup career and she doles them out in deadpan perfection. She was a brilliant kid actor and ever more brilliant as the young woman in this sequel. For all the essentially minor gripes I may have with this movie, it made a huge impact on child sized me. It gave me my first hopeless celebrity crush. As a young man just starting to “notice” girls, seeing a 13 year old Christina Ricci playing a droll, ivory skinned outcast was all this movie junky needed to become hopelessly infatuated. Having a crush on Christina Ricci was kinda like a guy-tween right of passage. I’ve met tons of guys who have all admitted to major Ricci crushes in their youth but like me, they all eventually moved on to
stalking crushing on girls we actually knew but that winter of 1993 till sometime after Casper in 1995, our hearts belonged only to her. And yes we all totally watched Prozac Nation when we were in college to finally see what was under that black striped bathing suit.
The real truth is that most mainstream Hollywood features are the same paint by number formula, the difference is in the amount of heart you put in it. Hidden in the funny lines of writer Paul Rudnick’s script is a lot of truth about youth, love and marriage. For those that have been married or at least in a long term relationship, the gags with Debbie and Fester in their home life cut especially deep. Understanding of that level takes living and loving as only a writer can. Seeing every moment for not only what it is but what it can be. Being brave enough to love with your whole heart. A guarded, fearful individual couldn’t have written this script. Below are some of my favorite lines:
Below are some of my favorite lines:
- “I hope the someday you feel the indescribable joy of having children and of paying someone else to raise them” – Gomez Addams
- “You’ll meet someone, someone very special, someone who won’t press charges” -Gomez Addams
- “is that your bathing suit? – is that your overbite? – Amanda Buckman / Wednesday Addams
Addams Family Values is a funny, well executed if not unspectacular ride through a familiar neighborhood. Its still a wonderful place to visit, it just doesn’t sparkle quite the way it did when you first came to town but thats ok, you can still enjoy your time there before you drive back to the mean streets of reality.