An American Family: Addams Family Values

Every family has its thing.

I have to watch it when it’s on, I seek it out at times, and I can’t get enough of Addams Family Values. This 1993 film, a sequel to The Addams Family, is a movie that I have loved throughout the years. I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that keeps me coming back to it. Maybe it’s the comedic darkness. Maybe it’s the loving family aspect. Or, maybe it’s just that I like darkly funny things. Whatever it is, it’s one of my favorite movies even when it’s not Halloween Season.

Some have argued that Addams Family Values is better than its predecessor. The cast and characters in each film are the same, except for a couple of additions and subtractions, and one noticeable replacement in the role of Grandmama. Both films explore the hilarious antics of a family who is fascinated and have made a lifestyle out of the macabre, while living in a society that doesn’t see things in the same light as them. So, which is better? Who’s to say? For me, if you told me I could only choose one to watch, I would choose Addams Family Values every time.

I feel like there’s more going on in this film with both the adults and the children. The adults, Gomez and Morticia, played by Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston, are fixated on finding Fester, (portrayed by Christopher Lloyd) love, as well as taking care of their new baby. Their quest to find Fester a mate, regardless of how they get there, makes for some seriously cringy and funny moments. The storyline around Fester being socialized by Gomez and Morticia, who are equally and perfectly matched, in order to attract a bride for him, created a hilarious contrast between their romance, and the one that Fester stumbles upon.

Wednesday and Pugsley, the children, played by Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman, are shipped off to a summer camp where they don’t fit in with the chipper campers, and must show these smiling freaks some much needed dark chaos. There’s more sardonic humor from the kids in this movie, which added some much needed character to their roles. They were given bigger parts in this film than in the previous one, and it only added to the humor.

I would pin a majority of my interest in this film on the addition of one character, and one character alone. I always say that if I were to play a role in a movie, I would want to be the villain. If I could choose between being a cruel or comedic villain, I would probably choose to be the comedic version. Addams Family Values has one of the best comedic villains I’ve seen in the form of Debbie, played by Joan Cusak. Debbie is a homicidal maniac who has been on the run for years after marrying and murdering several men, as well as her parents. She uses her sexuality and faux charm to woo Fester so she can kill him and take his money, but it quickly turns to manipulation and frustration when all of her murder attempts on him fail.

The thing I always think about is that if Debbie had been honest with the Addams clan from the beginning, they probably would’ve accepted her into the family as one of their own. I mean, sure, she would have been in a loveless marriage to a short, pudgy, awkward, bald guy, but there are worse things in life. Cusak has one of the best monologues in this film, one of which I have pretty much memorized because it’s so incredibly funny and weird in the way that she delivers it. Let’s just say Debbie kills for very petty reasons, and I love it. She is my idol, and I want to be just like her when I grow up. I’m kidding… maybe.

Even though the family is nearly destroyed by Debbie and her rage, they are able to pull through in the end. It sounds strange to say, but this bizarre family unit provides some good examples of what it means to be supportive and loving. Gomez and Morticia encourage their children to explore various interests, even if that means burning down an entire camp in order to tell the true story of Thanksgiving. They are an openly, and sometimes overly, affectionate couple who love each other immensely. The family, as a whole, sticks together in the good times and the bad, even if they occasionally try to maim each other.

Family values aside, this movie is campy, which is also part of its appeal. Every year, people still dress up as the characters from this movie for the holiday. They have made cartoon versions, and new live versions of this family for current audiences, which speaks to its appeal. Addams Family Values has held up over the years, and continues to bring the laughs. Although the Addams are not like the average family, they are a strong family unit and a decent example of how to treat the people you love: with cyanide pills and dagger throwing.

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