Sometimes Required Viewing is all about a blast from the past. Sometimes it’s about an iconic performance. Every so often, one picture encapsulates both of those things. Addams Family Values is that picture. The kind of family movie that could only have sprung from the ’90s, it’s a loosely plotted sequel to a loosely plotted television show adaptation that’s meta before meta was meta. It also happens to be a showcase of Joan Cusack doing the absolute most. So, when it popped up at our local Alamo, Brooke moved it up the list and drug Annemarie along.
Kick us off, AM.
A: I was told this film would be about Thanksgiving. Or, actually, feature a Thanksgiving-themed motif that made it quite appropriate for our November viewing. (Shhh, we’re right on time with this post.) I digress. I missed The Addams Family and its sequel as one of those consequences of my mostly Disney film upbringing. I do distinctly remember reading about it in Disney Adventures magazine (in which Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman posed with Cruella De Vil). But I never actually watched the thing.
I don’t know if I missed any crucial plot developments in the first, but I figure a kids movie mostly based on sight gags and one-liners would probably be ok to skip around on. First, let’s talk about my favorite character: Wednesday. She was everything I knew she’d be, and my jealousy of ’90s-era Christina Ricci continues to grow. She’s got the best lines, the best devil-may-care attitude, and aside from her murder attempts on her new baby brother, she’s a great fun time.
Brooke, tell me before we go on: what did I miss from the first, and who’s your fave amongst our ghoulish family?
B: Honestly, I don’t remember much of the first, minus just loving Wednesday. Addams Family Values was clearly superior, even back then. You’ve captured everything you need to know about the family, they’re creepy and they’re cooky and the ’90s were the perfect time and place for them. Naturally, Wednesday reigns supreme among all the family, but as an adult, I love Morticia’s style and deadpan humor and the grandma’s on-point witch vibes. But mostly, I’ve come to appreciate Joan Cusack’s Debbie as a treasure among performances from that era.
I don’t know if it’s just living as an adult woman for a period or developing a deep knowledge of film noir femme fatales that did it, but I just can’t get enough of her. Doesn’t she deserve love too?!
But I digress, AM let’s talk about how dark this “kids” movie was ready to go. And also about the one-liners, because I probably can’t overstate the degree to which this movie (and Clue) impacted my sense of humor.
A: I did mention Wednesday actively trying to murder her baby brother, right? That’s pretty dark. And Debbie’s shenanigans are decidedly not cheeky, but tragic and cruel. Uncle Fester deserves better, even though he’s categorically the kookiest and creepiest of the bunch. I think the whole concept of a gold-digging femme fatale is possibly completely out of the realm of understanding for the 10-and-under set, so it’s interesting that they spend most of the plot on this. It’s all for laughs in the end as Wednesday and Pugsley save the day, but still. The stakes are considerably higher than in other kids movies of the day. (I’m thinking specifically about Mighty Ducks.)
One-liners (literally 1-3 words) from Wednesday make up my “fave” list, including this gem of an exchange:
Morticia: Wednesday’s at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind.
But Wednesday does have boys on the mind, as it turns out. Joel, played by David Krumholtz, years before he Longbottomed. Sure, Wednesday ultimately rejects the poor guy, but it does show that she has some emotions!
Brooke, what line is your favorite? And if your beloved uncle was in the grips of a pastel-wearing blonde with murder on the mind, what tactics would you use to keep her from hurting your family?
B: You didn’t ask, but I have to protest the idea that David Krumholtz Longbottomed, sure, he grew into himself, but the transformation was not of the same caliber. Which is to say, I’ve never found myself unexpectedly lusting after David Krumholtz. But, back to your original question about favorite lines. There are entirely too many options here for me to choose one, but if I must, I must. So I’ll go with a throwaway moment from the montage of nannies that arrive before Debbie:
Third Nanny: Hello, kiddies, I’m Polly the Puppet! What shall we do today? I know- let’s all clean our rooms!
Wednesday: Hello, Polly. I’ll clean my room…in exchange for your immortal soul.
I love the idea that a child so young is not only equipped with every deadpan in the book but also has an impeccable command over visual gags and prop comedy. Wednesday for President.
Were one of my uncles scooped up by a murderous fiend with classic film style, I would first demand to know where she shops. After a makeover montage, I would find a way to show her real love and melt her cold heart. Failing that, I would call the cops BEFORE she tricked me into an elaborate murder rig with the rest of the fam. Tell me, AM, do you believe as I do, that if you and I found ourselves at that summer camp that you would be the Amanda to my Wednesday — but instead of warring we’d both roll our eyes at Gary?
A: I grant you that David Krumholtz’s transformation wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Matthew Lewis’, but there’s still some sneaky puberty working there. I also don’t have Mr. Krumholtz on my top 5 list, for example, but I remember thinking when his show Numb3rs came out that he’d grown up quite nicely. I’m fine to stand alone on this hill, though.
And yes, my persona is firmly Amanda. I like to believe I’m less hostile and bitchy to anyone not also blonde, but the archetype certainly fits. I would also like to think I won’t end up as a vampire, like Mercedes McNab did on Buffy. But, to your question, I would relish the opportunity to eyeroll and conspire against Gary and his equally intensively annoying wife Becky. I have no doubt that Gary and Becky’s theatrics are rooted in evil, more so than even Debbie’s. No one runs a camp for kids and puts on full-scale Thanksgiving reenactments without a little evil. Perhaps this is because I never went to summer camp, but still. My broad generalization stands.
B: I’ll subscribe to that theory. And I’ll say once more that we should all be more like Wednesday.
Next time we’re going back down South. To the Shore, the Floribama Shore.