The Addams Family
1991, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 29, 1991
It took decades to finally bring a worthy film version of Charles Addams' eerie cartoon family to the screen, but here it is. First-time director Sonnenfeld (previously the director of photography on such films as Misery, Miller's Crossing, and Throw Momma from the Train) wisely chose to steer clear of the morass presented by the old Addams sitcom, and instead has taken much, if not all, of his inspiration directly from the original Charles Addams cartoons which ran in The New Yorker magazine for decades. Be thankful, because in doing so, he has managed to maintain the dark, vital integrity that the TV series so sorely lacked. As might be expected from a movie that uses a group of one-shot cartoons as its source, The Addams Family offers little along the lines of a “plot.” Sonnenfeld presents us with the odd goings-on following the sudden reappearance of Uncle Fester (Lloyd, so perfectly cast, it's as though Jackie Coogan never existed) after a 25-year absence from the Addams' ancestral mansion. Is he or is he not who he appears to be? Thankfully Sonnenfeld has imbued the remainder of the film with dozens of delightfully macabre touches. As Morticia and Gomez Addams, Huston and Julia are perfect, far more on-target than TV's Carolyn Jones and John Astin ever were. The characters of butler Lurch and son Pugsley are likewise true to the original Addams' ouevre, but it's young daughter Wednesday (Ricci) -- all solemnity and black-clad innocence -- who rings truest. With her toy guillotine and collection of (naturally) headless dolls, she is the youthful heart of this strangely endearing brood. The rest of the Addams menage is here as well: aged Granny, the shaggy and libidinous Cousin It, and everyone's favorite disembodied hand, Thing (no longer confined to that tiny wooden cigar box thanks to nineties special effects). Taken together, these characters successfully resurrect the ghoulish spirit of the old cartoons and, one hopes, usher in a new generation of Addams fans (and fanatics). It's interesting to note, too, that as we enter the last decade of the 20th century, it is the Addams family that appears as being the screen's most loving, nurturing, and above all, the sanest of American film families, eccentric though they may be. Truthfully, it's hard to imagine a better screen adaptation of this queer household. Addams would have been proud.