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Addams Family Values

October 31, 2016


We watched this yesterday.  As a family.  And if it isn’t the best Halloween movie ever made, it is definitely one of the best family movies ever made, making it (by some considerable margin) the greatest family Halloween movie ever made.

David Sonnenfeld improves on his earlier Addams Family film by illustrating an authentic sense of evil, represented by the gold-digging black widow “Debbie” (Joan Cusack), whose lifelong killing spree was initiated, we learn, by her childhood disappointment at having been given the wrong Barbie doll – a mistake which her parents do not long survive.  Sonnenfeld recreates the elegance of the Addams mansion and its inmates beautifully but this film creates a sense of visual brilliance by juxtaposing this elegance with the eerie sunlit scenes, and the hideous aesthetic principles that govern so-called “normal” people.  Morticia, confronting Debbie with her long list of crimes, allows her an appreciative nod before damning her interior design.  “Pastels” are not a crime that can be easily forgiven.  They may be the crime against the Holy Ghost.

Addams Family Values, therefore, are a place where morality meets aesthetics – they are about a faculty of judgement that invited the attention of Immanuel Kant.

Yes, it was as funny as I remembered it, and (best of all) the boy thinks it’s hilarious too.

And then there’s summer camp.  Nothing is scarier than enforced merriment and the cheesy smiles of camp counselors Peter MacNichol  and Christine Baranski are as scary as Wednesday’s own rictus of enforced (and spurious) camp compliance.

If you don’t cheer on Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) as she destroys summer camp there is something deeply wrong with you.  Cast as Pocahontas in a geographically inept “Thanksgiving” Pageant, Wednesday leads a first nations revolt against everything that is most hideous and blonde about Anglo-Saxon privilege.

As Uncle Fester, Christopher Lloyd, made up to look like Michel Foucault, exudes a kind of naive energy and a desperate need for love.  The smouldering passions of Gomez and Morticia (Paul Julia and Angelica Huston) – he all fire and she all ice – are as touching as they are hilarious.  Because this is a film about family, a film that affirms family in a way that can only work if every familial cliche is both subverted and inverted.  The Addams Family are just about the most functional family ever to make it to the small or the big screen and they function because nothing is allowed to go unexpressed, and because they have no concept of repressed fears and longings.

There’s a lot of love in the house.  And also a lot of sex.  And nobody pretends that the love isn’t because of the sex.


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