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‘Addams Family Values’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 19, 1993

 


Director:
Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast:
Anjelica Huston;
Raul Julia;
Christopher Lloyd;
Joan Cusack;
Carol Kane;
Christina Ricci;
Jimmy Workman;
Carel Struycken;
David Krumholtz;
Christopher Hart;
Dana Ivey;
Peter MacNicol;
Sam McMurray;
Nathan Lane;
Peter Graves
PG-13
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent


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As with most sequels, "Addams Family Values" is a thinner, airier reunion. For those who enjoyed the original "The Addams Family," the flavor is still there. But you feel a little undernourished.

The first movie already felt like an overextended, one-hour pilot. The latest feels like a 30-minute episode stretched even longer.

This week, Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) have an addition to their family: a mustachioed newborn called Pubert. The Addams infant provokes bitter (almost murderous) rivalry from Pubert's sibs, Wednesday (the wonderful Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman). Meanwhile, scheming nanny-cum-black widow Debbie Jelinsky (played with Cruella deviousness by Joan Cusack) slinks her way into seedy Uncle Fester's heart, eyes firmly fixed on his wallet.

Like the first movie (but even more so) the plot is mere conduit for Addams one-liners. Ah, but what one-liners they are -- verbal dry ice from bluish lips. When Debbie cons Fester (Christopher Lloyd) into marriage, she forces her romantically enslaved husband to cut all ties with his relatives. An appalled Morticia confronts the villainess: "You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell," she says. "I respect that."

Screenwriter Paul Rudnick earns easy money with the jokes but he doesn't strain himself to provide anything else like, say, character. Even slightly deepened, a comedy becomes funnier: What makes Gomez tick, for instance? What does Fester really do when he's lonely? When does Morticia feel un-serene? But there I go expecting stuff again.

Speaking of characters, the star of both movies, for my money, is Ricci's luminously dour Wednesday Addams. Before her steely glare and contempt-laden retorts, all victims wither.

"What do we say?" coos Debbie at her first meeting with Wednesday.

"Be afraid," replies the teenager. "Be very afraid."

There's not much else to tell you. When Debbie realizes Wednesday is on to her game, she manages to get both kids sent away to summer camp. So, while Debbie works her charms on Fester, the Addams kids suffer the touchy-feely zone, full of snooty, upper-income kids and eerily dippy counselors (Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski).

In the best scene of all, camp leader MacNicol stages a "First Thanksgiving" play for parents, forcing Wednesday to play Pocahontas and Pugsley to dress up as a turkey ("Kill me!" he keeps saying). Wednesday behaves herself through most of the play, until it's time to sit down with the Pilgrims (played by a passel of bratty girls).

"Wait," she says, to the stunned reaction of everyone. "We can't break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours."

After outlining the crimes of the colonizers, Wednesday concludes: "And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."

Now, that's a horrible little girl -- and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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